Aug 08, 2023
by Karl Smith
Billie Eilish Gives The Nike Air Alpha Force 88 a New Lease of Earth-Friendly Life
by Karl Smith
Aug 08, 2023

Having covered previous Billie Eilish x Nike sneaker releases like the scrap-made AF-1 Low and the recycled AF-1 High, there was some confusion at FUTUREVVORLD when it came to the pair’s latest effort.

Where, historically, Eilish has always been so vocal about her plant-based principles, making them a priority in her collaborations, outlets covering the rollout of the Billie Eilish x Nike Air Alpha Force 88 referred pretty consistently to how the shoe “maintained its leather construction.”

It seemed odd. The idea that an advocate for both cruelty-free and Earth-friendlier footwear seemed to be abandoning both of those positions was disconcerting – discouraging, even. But no corrections were issued and neither Eilish nor Nike alluded to an alternative material choice.

Until now, at least.

As it turns out, having now officially released and with all the details now officially a matter of public record, that trepidation was unwarranted. The Billie Eilish x Nike Air Alpha Force 88 does not, in fact, maintain the silhouette’s original leather construction, but opts instead for a synthetic leather upper.

And it’s not just synthetic leather, either: Eilish’s website notes that the upper of her AAF88 is crafted from a mix of recycled synthetic materials – and therefore doesn’t make use virgin plastics – and recycled textile. While the former makes up the bulk of the shoe’s construction, the latter presumably refers to the extra aesthetic touch of the Swoosh-stitched corduroy on the outer ankle.

In fact, the shoe employs a minimum of 25% recycled materials including recycled TPU on the forefoot strap and eyestays, recycled polyester lining, and a sockliner made of recycled textile.

Previous to the release, only one Earth-friendlier measure had been confirmed: a partnership with Living Ink, deploying the next-gen innovators’ algae-based black coloring to avoid the use of environmentally harmful dyes. This, of course, is no small thing – the dangers of Carbon Black and the detrimental effects of the dyeing process as a pollutant are massively understated.

Used here on the back heel midsole paint and tongue top graphic, this organic alternative may feel like a small detail – but the implications are huge.

It’s been interesting, over the last couple of days, watching the comments roll in on Nike’s official Instagram: a cursory scroll makes it obvious what a lose/lose situation this is. Without the benefit of a note on the materials, there’s been a lot of “what’s the point?” and “no one was asking for this” replies to Nike’s posts. (Much of which, of course, is little more than thinly-veiled misogyny in the rare cases it’s veiled at all.)

But, on the other hand, armed with the knowledge that animal leathers had been taken out of the equation, you can more or less guarantee those same people would be saying the same thing – just from a slightly different angle.

All of which, of course, is the reality of being a woman in the public eye and the reality to bring a woman in the sneaker community.

Still, here we are. And the fact that “no one was asking for this” only cements Eilish’s own (already well documented) sneakerhead credentials: if the Nike Air Alpha Force 88 isn’t a fan favorite and isn’t being released to placate the Nike fan base, then it’s surely a personal favorite – a silhouette that Eilish clearly wanted to see back in circulation and have a chance to work on.

As much as anything else, it’s a passion project. That it’s a progressive passion project only makes that even more worthy of respect.

Co-branded with a tongue top graphic which combines the new AAF88 basketball logo and a debossed version of Billie Eilish’s amorphous Blohsh logo, the new collaborative sneaker comes in two colorways – a Red/White/Black offering and an even more low-key Black/White – and is available directly from the Billie Eilish Store.