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Nike's Beautiful X Powerful Women
4 Oct 2016 11:53 AM
“The only one who can tell you 'you can't' is you. And you don't have to listen." – Nike
“Fear less. Do more. Get outside and get after it.” – Nike
“The harder you push, the more you are pulled.” – Nike
“Everything you need is already inside.” – Nike
“Strong is the new beautiful.” – Nike
“Just do it.” – Nike
“You are entirely up to you. Make your body. Make your life. Make yourself.” – Nike
“There is no finish line.” – Nike
Nike have a way with words. Since 1988 when the first “Just do it” campaign came out, the sports brand have been inspiring regular people to do irregular things. It’s never been a gendered agenda, but you can easily read the slogans above as powerful feminist statements. The last, “there is no finish line” is the latest and has to do with a woman called Joan Benoit Samuelson who in 1984 ran the first ever women’s marathon in LA in two hours, 24 minutes and 52 seconds. Prior to that, consensus was that women probably weren’t physically capable of running distances beyond 1500 metres. “There is no finish line” is Joan’s personal mantra that Nike have borrowed to articulate their continual commitment to supporting women in sport. In other words, on the road to equality for women, Nike will stop at nothing. And they’ve put their money where their mouth is, providing safe spaces for women to run free for decades with the NikeWomen community where female athletes train together, and the NikeWomen’s Victory Tour, where women from all over the world (from Athens to Manila) race in their cities.
Inspired by Joan, Nike have put together a collection of trainers called Beautiful x Powerful reimagining four cult classics including the Cortez (you’ll recognise the shape when you see it), the Air Max Thea Ultra, the Air Presto and the Air Hurarache all in neat triple black (black, on black, on black). The campaign was revealed on Sunday in Paris after a 10k run around the city and features Brazilian model and hardcore runner Izabel Goulart, who ran a personal best that morning slashing a whopping six minutes off her time. The campaign also features Refinery29 favourite Naomi Shimada – who’s everyone’s favourite really. Naomi (pictured) is a model, a documentary filmmaker, and the most inspiring accidental spokesperson for feeling confident about your body and believing in your authentic self.
The journalist and founder of The WW (working women’s) Club, Phoebe Lovatt, chaired an afternoon panel at the launch – interviewing Naomi, the DJ Louise Chen, the designer Sandy Liang and fashion/ fitness expert Elle Hankinson – that should in all seriousness form part of a curriculum for girls in schools because it was exactly what they need to hear. The conversation was barely about Nike, which says more about the brand than anything they could have said about it. Instead the five women spoke about the very real struggles affecting women in their respective industries and how they each found the confidence – and are still finding the confidence – to be who they are and activate the ideas in their heads.
“There are so many boxes presented to us”, started Naomi, “People feel more comfortable being able to slot you somewhere. I had been trying to do that, I think we’ve all been trying to do that, from school to work, asking ‘Who am I? What do I like? Where do I fit in?’ It’s only now that I feel I’m really beginning to come into my own by completely accepting that I don’t fit into any box, and that is my strength. Trust me, it’s a slow game. I’ve been modelling since I was a child and it’s only now that I really feel like I’m doing it as me, for me. We’re supposed to be the perfect... everything. What I put out there is that I’m not perfect. My vulnerabilities are my strengths. All of our vulnerabilities are our strengths.”
“That’s one of the new definitions of power for women”, added Louise Chen, “to have that confidence and be like ‘maybe I just need to walk to the beat of my own drum and not have to comply to perceptions, especially male-constructed perceptions.’ That idea that you’re only powerful if you’re aggressive and if you sacrifice your private life is toxic. I was lucky to be brought up in a matriarchy with working women, and I saw them manage to be mothers, lovers and workers. That’s the real power – their real strength was to be as vulnerable as they are hard-working.” Scroll down to hear from Naomi and Louise on our Facebook Live stream from the launch.
The conversation moved on to the stance brands are taking now by using “real women” as opposed to models in their campaigns. While feminist campaigns are all well and mostly good, it can just feel like the next trend in an industry that runs on trends. As Phoebe put it, “The fact that brands are addressing it is reflective of the fact that real change is happening but equally now there’s a new challenge that we have to change it into something tangible. It can’t just be some verbalised expression of ‘oh great, we’re all powerful now’. How does that translate into actually closing the salary gap? Into us all actually feeling more comfortable as women?”
“I’m a size 14-16 and it’s only now that things are changing”, agreed Naomi, “I’m happy to be part of that shift but we need to make sure it’s a shift that lasts and that isn’t a fad or some hot buzzword topic, that it’s not just clickbait, but a lifestyle, and a true change of perception.”
The shift can feel forced, for sure, but it didn't here and the fact that Nike are making a space for these things to be said shows they take their own advice: “take the higher road and go higher.” The Beautiful x Powerful collection is a small, discreet collection that feels authentic – something to ground you as you push back the finish line.