One of Nike's most popular styles is undoubtedly the iconic Air Force 1s — whether you're a Gen Z teen or a middle-aged adult, it's a timeless classic. However, the beloved sneakers are made from cow leather, which, for a long time, has deterred the brand's vegan fan base. That's why the sneaker giant decided to release an animal-free collection, which includes a vegan version of Nike Air Force 1s made from Piñatex pineapple leather.
“This summer has just gotten sweeter. Nike merges their innovative silhouettes with juicy hues and clever details paying homage to a summertime staple—the pineapple,” Piñatex wrote in an Instagram post. “Piñatex has been used on the brand’s iconic models in key parts of the shoe together with other sustainable materials such as cork.”
What to know about Nike's vegan Happy Pineapple collection:
Following in the steps of Adidas, which released a fungi leather shoe earlier this year, Nike unveiled a new entirely vegan line called the Happy Pineapple Collection. According to VegNews, it includes animal-free versions of the brand's classic styles, including the Free Run Trail Premium, the Air Max 90, the Air Max 95, Air Force 1, and the Air-Zoom Type. This is part of Nike's Move to Zero program, as the brand aims to become carbon neutral.
Each style within the Happy Pineapple collection, including the Air Force 1s, are comprised of Piñatex, a vegan leather made from pineapple leaves, according to Vegconomist. The animal-free leather replaces the traditionally leather uppers, and the rest of the shoe is made from sustainably-sourced cork. You can find them in two colors in the Nike’s SNKRS app, in "Green Glow” and “Coconut Milk." Both tongues on the shoe don a smiling pineapple patch, which — let's face it — is seriously adorable.
What is Piñatex?
As previously mentioned, Piñatex is a vegan leather substitute made from pineapple leaves, according to the brand's website. The company was founded by Dr. Carmen Hijosa, a leather goods expert from Spain, who was disappointed by the environmental impact of leather production. After learning more about how plant fibers can replace leather, she did some research her own, and eventually realized using treated pineapple leaves was lower-impact and provided a similar material.
Usually, after pineapples are harvested in the Philippines, the leaves are left behind — but Hijosa wanted to give them a second life. The long fibers are extracted, and dried in the sun. They're then purified and combined with a corn-based polylactic acid (PLA), before they're turned into a mesh-y material. They are shipped by boat to Spain or Italy, and they undergo a finishing process, before receiving a top coating that increases their strength and water resistance.
More and more sneaker brands are turning to vegan leather alternatives.
Nike and Adidas aren't the only big brands transitioning to plant-based leathers. Earlier this month, Gucci released three vegan sneaker styles, comprised of bio-based polyurethane made from wheat and corn, viscose, and wood pulp compounds derived from sustainably-managed forests, according to LiveKindly.
Less than a week prior, Vans also launched a new collection called Eco Theory, according to LiveKindly. It emulates classic styles such as the Authentic, Slip-On, Sk8-Hi, and Style 36. Each is made from certified organic cotton, cork-lined Ultracush footbeds, as well as hemp fiber-based laces, and ethically and sustainably sourced rubber, instead of the usual petroleum-based rubber.