Nike Kukini. A perfect summary of the Y2K aesthetic.


Nike Kukini is the Zeitgeist of the early Millennium; a historical moment filled with hopes and dreams for the future - once the threat of the Millennium Bug is averted.

Japanese Subcultures, Ravers, Virtual Globetrotters: Kukinis were the generational sneakers of the 2000s.

After 22 years, the Millennium Bug’s sneaker-symbol is finally back.

The Air Kukini is a memorable sneaker – released in 2000 – which represents one of Nike’s most progressive creations at the time, as well as the perfect synthesis of the Y2K aesthetic.

This Slip-On trainer was part of the Alpha Project pack: an ambitious program that combines marketing, design and experimentation, and aspires to be the result of the “Golden Era” of sports footwear created up to that time, with an eye toward future design.

The Alpha Project is conceived as the culmination of the Nike team’s creative and technological research, which began a few years earlier in 1997 with the Spiridon, Talaria, and Foamposite; culminating with the release of the Air Kukini, the Air Presto, and the Air Shox.

These models lay the groundwork for the technological revolution of the footwear industry, forever.

Nike Kukini is the Zeitgeist of the early Millennium; a historical moment filled with hopes and dreams for the future – once the threat of the Millennium Bug is averted.

New technologies are making their rapid entry into everyday life; people are discovering the pleasure of communicating over the Internet without limits of space and time. In this context, the Kukini finds fertile ground among the new virtual globetrotters, nomadic clubbers and ravers who follow techno music caravans around Europe, Japanese subcultures.

Designed by Sean McDowell, the man behind the design of previous Air Max Plus shoes, the Kukini was created in collaboration with triathlon athlete Mark Allen to solve a seemingly marginal but not minor problem: preveanting water from seeping onto the upper, making the shoes heavy.

McDowell abandons the traditional lace system, preferring the innovative silicone cage-the upper is made with a special overlay of TPU Foot Web and Dynamic Stretch Mesh: a material still new for the time, which will open up endless possibilities for the footwear industry.

the Kukini turns out to be totally waterproof, while the Phyton midsole and Duralon outsole rest on the unique Air unit, giving the shoe incredible comfort.

Thanks to the avant-garde design and innovative materials used, the sneaker finds a permanent home across the ocean in Japan.

Tokyo’s cool kids populate the ranks of the world’s most thriving and interesting technical sneaker community, which exploded with the first boom caused by the Air Max 95. It is almost impossible to imagine, in the context of Japanese austerity, that these shoes were literally stolen from the feet of the wearer, only to become the subject of the counterfeit market.

Although not as violent, the second technical sneaker boom occurs precisely with the launch of the Alpha Project; but if the first was brief and intense, the second achieves greater popularity and durability.

The Air Kukini sees a surge in popularity especially among women, thanks in part to collaborations with legends such as Urahara, Hiroshi Fujiwara, and popular Japanese press idols such as Kawori Manabe.

And in Europe? The Air Kukini are an unconventional and avant-garde style statement. Those who choose them are tacitly part of an urban tribe: the clan is composed mainly of clubbers, artists, creatives, citizens of the global village.

Although several versions have been made over the years, the Air Kukini OG are finally ready to make a comeback after 22 years.

As the popularity of the Y2k aesthetic continues to grow, Millennials and Gen-Z kids can finally get their hands on three iconic colorways: leopard pattern, icy blue, and ice white.

Discover them online and in store

WORDS: Manuela Palma



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