British-Nigerian artist Skepta’s signature Air Max 97 is inspired by his love of Nike Air and his home-away-from-London, Morocco. A trip to Essaouira, a coastal city frequented by rockstars during the ‘60s, provided further colors, sounds and stories that would shape the Air Max 97 Sk collaboration.
Here, Skepta describes what took him to Morocco and how the shoe represents who he is and where he comes from.
I am blessed to have been able to travel the world doing what I do. After touring so much, I was looking for some peace.
I found Morocco, and it was perfect. Everything I wanted to feel about peace, I found it there. I like the architecture, the pastel colors, the taxis, the way that you could just go into a small little souq, open a door and it brings you into a big, massive, beautiful new world that you never would have expected.
The style reminded me of Nigeria — the way people wear such casual and practical clothing. The embroidery on the clothing makes it royal to me. They look like kings and queens, princes and princesses. I wanted to introduce embroidery to the streets, a place where people don’t feel entitled to certain things; I wanted to make us feel good, really.
“I found Morocco, and it was perfect. Everything I wanted to feel about peace, I found it there.”
After Marrakesh, we hit the road for Essaouira to see where the vibes were. We spoke to as many people as we could, did everyday things and really felt at home there.
When designing the Air Max 97 Sk, we took the color palette of Morocco into consideration, but also the palette of the 1999 Air Tuned Max. That was the first shoe I ever saved up money to buy, so I wanted to bring its magic to the 97 — the magic that made me first love Air Max when I saw it as a child.
I remember going to sleep at night, and putting them in a position in my room where, when I was lying in my bed, I could still see them in clear vision. It was the color; it looked like some kind of oil, the change from alien green to dark burgundy and then to light.
We added the embroidery inspired by Morocco, on the tongue and on the back, and created a print on the insole that is reminiscent of what I saw there, as well.
The SK logo is in the shape of a British plug, and it’s mixed with the classic, small TN badges that they put on shoes.
I have been wearing Air Max for so long, since I was seven playing around in the estate; I feel like I know my Air Max well. Air Max is from when we were running the streets, it was comfortable to wear in London, whether you were going out to a club or kicking a ball in the streets. Those kinds of things stick in my mind from the young, magical, fantasy years of my life.
“I have been wearing Air Max for so long, since I was seven playing around in the estate; I feel like I know my Air Max well.”
I understand that everyone is going through something, including young people on the streets. They want to look fly. They want to look cool. They want to look good when they get dressed. Everybody puts on their outfit to get through a situation.
Air Max is museum-worthy. They’re worthy of standing next to other pieces of art. That’s why it’s more than just a shoe. And it’s always been that for me. When looking at this 97, I just wanted to feel the way I did when I was a child. And we got there. It’s perfect.