Wait. Why Is Nike Making Clothes For An Artist Who Skewers Branding?

This month, artist Tom Sachs and a group of astronauts will stage a mission to Mars. In an unlikely collaboration with Nike, he’s created a line of space survival gear for the average civilian, too.

Two weeks ago, New Yorkers rushed to their office windows to watch the space shuttle fly by the city on its way to retirement. While we were reminiscing about NASA’s better days, artist Tom Sachs was planning a four-week mission to Mars. From a launchpad on the Upper East Side.


Beginning tomorrow, Sachs will launch SPACE PROGRAM: Mars, a detailed recreation of a 30-day shuttle mission to explore the red planet. Two astronauts, supported by a team of 13, will act out every aspect of the mission, from electronics to waste management, on the floor of the Park Avenue Armory (check out Sachs’ Tumblr for progress shots of bottles of pee and a skateboarder being pulled by their Mars Rover). To go with the demonstration, Sachs and Nike have launched a capsule collection of clothing built for space travel.

So, how does a guy like Sachs, who has lampooned capitalism for decades, come to work with the corporate brand?

It looks like Nike and Sachs shared common ground in their obsession with detail and craft. “In the hierarchy of manufacturing goods, things like aerospace are the highest quality,” Sachs said last year. “I’m interested in the things that are the highest caliber of manufacturing quality.”

Sachs seems sincerely psyched about working with a company with such a rigorous testing and research team. Each piece in the NIKEcraft collection speaks to the perils of surviving a DIY space mission (if not actually preparing you for one). Some of the pieces are made from actual space-suit material, while others are constructed from car air bags and yacht mainsails. According to Nike, the jacket’s paracord could double as a tourniquet. The periodic table of elements is screenprinted on the inside of its pockets.

NIKEcraft might be proof of the increasingly ambiguous relationship between the art world and corporate interests. But you shouldn’t feel bad for coveting a space-suit purse, either. In a way, the NIKEcraft line is a functioning Sachs piece, encouraging us to participate in his ritual recreation, courtesy of a corporate sponsor who’s in on the joke.

SPACE PROGRAM: Mars opens to the public tomorrow.


About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.