Interview with Nike Designer Graeme McMillan

On the back of the launch of the highly anticipated Nike Breathe Collection, we spoke to Nike Sportswear designer Graeme McMillan who highlighted how at Nike, the wearer is always at the front of mind.

After the Nike team spent time travelling to Brazil, they became inspired to design a shoe for the spirit of an urban summer. During the trip they witnessed Brazil’s residents persevere over the scorching temperatures and humidity as they exercised. The team realised that they could design a collection that could accommodate for these conditions. The result is the Nike Breathe Collection. The light and breathable Collection captures the colours and lifestyle evoked by an urban summer.

The Collection is defined by the customisation of three iconic styles: the Air Max Lunar1, the Nike Air Max 1 and the Roshe. Nike’s awareness of ongoing innovation has seen the styles given new purpose, with the focus on performance in the heat. 

f. How does this new Breathe Collection further extend Nike’s ‘innovating for life’ and ‘making icons better’ ethos?

GM. Working on icons and making them better is what we constantly do as an innovation company.

Our goal is to provide solutions for everyday problems and our consumers recognise this. This is why Air Max continues to be an icon, 25 years after its launch. We are constantly updating our products, in this case Air Max and Roshe Run to make them more breathable, comfortable and lightweight, addressing our consumers’ ever evolving needs.

When our design team looked at solving for hot weather, we gravitated towards providing the solution in our most iconic footwear, which are also grounded in performance, Air Max and Roshe Run. We know that people tend to be very active when it’s warm outside so we wanted the solution to be ultra comfortable and fit to move with the wearer throughout the summer months.

f. How are the original key concepts for each style retained, when stripping the shoes back to their core?

GM. When we say we stripped it down to the ‘core,’ it doesn’t mean from a design perspective. You can definitely see the original Air Max in the shoe but with this collection, we made the icon more lightweight, more comfortable and more breathable. All of those benefits are reflected in the materials we use – from mesh to the foam sole.

From an aesthetic point of view, the original Air Max is loud and clear. What we updated is the technology and materials, where we removed the traditional leather, suede or synthetic toe overlay and used breathable materials including mesh.

f. When designing the Collection how was the balance decided between aesthetic and comfort? 

GM. First and foremost, all Nike products need to perform at the highest standard, that is a given. All our footwear is designed with the athlete in mind so we will never sacrifice comfort and performance. From an aesthetic point of view, we obsess a seamless integration of Nike innovation in a way that is purposeful and stylish. We don’t make compromises; instead we improve so that all our footwear meets both Nike’s standards of aesthetic and comfort/performance.

f. With reference to the influence of weather conditions, how did science and technology influence the development process?

GM. Technology and new materials are what makes it possible to continue evolving our footwear to solve for and anticipate consumer needs. It enables us to continue innovating for life. 

f. Tell us about the colour way choices. Why were these selections made?

GM. The collection is 100% vibrant. We choose the colours to specifically speak to the excitement and energy of the Summer Season. We have a variety of colours in this collection so people can pick one that resonates with their style and attitude. 

f. Through the Breathe Collection, how is Nike bringing the unique Brazilian on-the-go lifestyle to the rest of the world?

GM. Our design team went down to Brazil during the midst of the summer heat. The weather really was oppressive but Brazilians were out and about, embracing the weather. Their on-the-go mentality despite the elements really got us thinking of how we can better serve them and their needs: we knew we had to create a footwear solution to keep them cool even when they are pounding the pavement.

f. Looking to the future, will Brazil’s diversity be further represented in future Breathe Collections? If so, how?

GM. We find inspiration from all around the globe. As an innovation company, we have a multitude of technologies to help make our footwear better and for every occasion and need. New constructions and technologies need to be approached in new ways, which leads to new expressions of style that our consumers expect and demand from Nike.

fluoro teamed up with Nike to release an exclusive image series in celebration of the Nike Breathe Collection. The Collection is now available in Nike stores, selected Nike retailers and online (

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One thought on “Interview with Nike Designer Graeme McMillan
  1. Cat says:

    Definitely makes me want to go shopping for Nike after reading about the design process! I love and hate you!

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