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Nikes’ partnership with this dress designer redefines the way women wear sneakers

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The image of an evening dress with sneakers has long been synonymous with Runaway Bride, the 1999 film that brought Julia Roberts and Richard Gere together in a comedy about a woman who can’t commit (a story that doesn’t hasn’t aged that well after being closely reviewed, but that’s another story). It resonated so much that when Chanel presented all its spring 2014 couture line from dresses and skirt suits to sneakers, she was immediately dubbed the collection of runaway brides.

Fast forward seven years, and the way we look at womens sneakers when it comes to womenswear is a lot more nuanced than said movie poster image of Roberts lacing up his running shoes (for the record, it was a pair of Adidas in the real movie). Designer Azeeza Khan of the women’s clothing line Azeeza helps redefine those ideas of femininity in the sneaker world through an ongoing partnership with Nike that brings its colorful, elegant and ethereal aesthetic into the predominantly masculine realm of athletic and streetwear design.

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It’s an unexpected match, the pairing the biggest sports brand in the world with a freelance womenswear designer who specializes in the most feminine dresses (yes, wedding dresses included).

But this juxtaposition is precisely the point of Nikes’ continued connection to Khan and his eponymous eight-year-old brand. End of 2019, Nike and Khan have launched a capsule which featured Azeezas’ chic empire waist ruffle hem dresses reimagined in performance fabrics and an Air Force 1 with a swoosh fully adorned with Swarovski crystals. Nike and Khan hosted a local workshop at its flagship Chicago location to celebrate the collaboration, followed by an activation and panel discussion during the NBA All-Star Weekend in February 2020 (just before the pandemic closes everything).

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After a year-long hiatus during the pandemic, Khan teamed up with Nike again, this time to celebrate Air Max Day 2021, participating in the brand’s immersive virtual experience on March 26 and designing his own Air Max. 95, which incorporates the colors of the city of Chicago. flag in an ode to the hues of her hometown that also reflect the dynamism of her collection of voluminous mini-dresses, fantastic evening dresses and tops that are perfect for portraits.

I always start with the color, and that inspires me to decide how to use the fabric, which requires chiffon, which requires some hemming, Khan told FN. It really motivates me creatively. I think you can notice seeing the pieces in person. You see the color first.

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After building a successful career in corporate marketing and advertising, Khan, born and raised in Chicago, launched her dress brand in 2013 as a personal project. I started the business just to say I had tried it. I have no experience in fashion, she says. But Khan’s vision hit the nail on the head on what women looked for in formal wear: ultra-feminine but not overly complicated or restrictive in actual wear; color statement, with trendy but also universally flattering and classic silhouettes; volume in all the right places.

In 2016, Azeeza launched at Barneys New York and quickly became one of the best-selling evening wear brands by retailers. The brand is still present at Bergdorf Goodman and Shopbop, but its flagship product on Michigan Avenue, a hybrid retail space that also houses its showroom, design studio and offices, remains its core business Khan, which it fully owns. .

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Having my mark here, I’m part of this arts community here in Chicago, said Khan, who first connected with Nike through the city’s art and design scene. It’s a very small scene here in Chicago and everyone knows each other.

Focusing on local and independence could become even more important to Nike as it rolls out future collaborations. For now, Khans’ partnership with the brand highlights an opportunity to further redefine sportswear in the womenswear space, especially as consumers take stock of their wardrobes in a new post-pandemic lifestyle. Collaborations with Virgil Abloh and Off-White, Comme des Garons as well as Jordans’ partnership with Dior have all increased the capital-F fashion quotient for Nike, but the female-centric female space is still a relatively untapped space for fashion. sports brand.

It’s a reflection of that intersection: I’m not a total sneakerhead, dressed in head-to-toe streetwear, but neither am I that person who is Prada from head to toe, Khan said. I’m in that middle zone in between.

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