5 Things To Know About Nike’s New Modest Swimwear

Sport is about overcoming boundaries, physical and mental barriers; via strength, focus, endurance and speed. But what if you don’t have the appropriate training gear? Forget funding and media coverage: if you haven’t got the right kit, you can’t compete. This was the problem Nike set out to solve with its latest launch, the Victory Swim Collections.

During a research trip, the Nike Swim team found that too many women had to choose between modesty and movement. “Particularly in Southeast Asia and in Muslim communities”, explains Martha Moore, Nike’s VP creative director. Twenty months and over 50 prototypes later, the sportswear giant is ready to dive into modest swimwear.

On sale from February 1, 2020, the full collection includes the Nike Victory Swim Hijab, Nike Victory Full-Coverage Swim Tunic Top, with in – build sports bra, and Nike Victory Full-Coverage Swim Leggings; each element designed to be as comfortable as it is dynamic. Crafted from a warp – kit nylon (rather than polyester) it is soft to the touch, avoids drag in the water and is quick-drying. Strategically placed mesh “gills” allow water to flow through the garments, rather than ballooning under the surface. “We wanted athletes to experience sport (swimming) with little to zero distractions”, Moore says.

The launch will no doubt attract huge attention, being politically, religiously and culturally charged. Just this week, Nike staff marched in Oregon, where the company was founded, calling for the brand to support and empower female athletes and employees. The West also has a difficult history with “burkinis”, as Lebanese-Australian fashion designer Aheda Zanetti trademarked the style. In 2016, women were fined and even arrested on French beaches for wearing these modest swimsuits, when more than two dozen municipalities, including Nice and Cannes, enacted band against burkinis. Nike’s Pro Hijab in 2018 had a mixed reception: seen as both a means of empowerment and a weapon of oppression. “We knew it would likely be controversial, but it was the right thing to do”, says Moore, of both then and now.

Moore herself is a force to be reckoned with. She’s the woman who, ahead of the 1998 Women’s World Cup, said women should have products designed for them. “Up until that point, they had only ever men’s product in smaller sizes. I said, “Let’s fix this”. It is with that same gumption and resolve that she and her team have tackled modest swimwear.

Here Are Five Facts About The Nike Victory Swim Collection You Need To Know:

It Was Made For Women, By Women

“I think you can look at a product and tell if the female gaze is lacking”, says Moore. “You can tell that it was never designed by a woman or even touched by a woman,  despite being made for a woman. There’s something about it that when you put it on, you know it isn’t quite right; it doesn’t understand the nuance of your body, or how you work and live and move through the world. I don’t say it in an exclusionary way, but I think the female gaze on everything that Nike does raises all boats.” To the end, Moore assembled a team of 25 women to work on the collection. Fronting the campaign? Zahra Lari, a keen swimmer and professional figure skater, Saudi-Arabian scuba diver and environmental activist Nouf Alosaimi and British basketball player, YouTuber and model Ikram Abdi Omar.

They Faces A Series Of Surprising Challenges – Not Least Hair Management

“At first, we thought the suit would be more like a catsuit for the water”, says Moore, recalling the water-ready version of Serena Williams’s 2018 French Open costume she originally envisioned. “But we were strong”. From there, their journey into modesty began. Working closely with athletes, the Nike team learned about their needs and requirements, translating them into design challenges: water flow, weight, fabric and support. The most unexpected challenge? Hair management. They solved it by  retrofitting the Pro Hijab with a pouch, “stolen” Moore says, from the men’s underwear industry. “How do you hold things in place? They do it all the time”, she laughs. “Often, the simplest solutions are the hardest to pull off”, she adds, pointing out the need to find materials that didn’t balloon in the water, and fastenings that wouldn’t inhibit neck movement or irritate the skin.

The Design Team Had To Innovate On Innovations

“A lot of research had already been done”, explains Moore. “We just had to put it through a water lens. We took the running team’s work on moisture management and translated it into water flow. Movement and articulation came from the baseball apparel team, to create a long sleeve that wouldn’t restrict a swimmer. Finding the right level of support was easy because of how much research the bra team has done. We just had to create cups that drain, rather than hold water”.

Modest Swimwear Has The Royal Seal Of Approval

HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, the executive vice-president of development and planning at the Kingdom’s Sport Authority, reached out to Nike for help in a bid to make swimming more inclusive for women. Unbeknown to the Saudi Princess, Nike was already working on a solutions. “Princess Reema has been a great support’ says Moore. “She helped us find athletes to work with and it proved the perfect symbiotic relationship”.

They Have Olympic Hold In Their Sights

“The aim (with this collection) is really simple: to get women in the water”, says Moore, “to allow women to swim comfortably and confidently.” Despite the innovation and clever designs, these swimsuit are not for elite athletes – yet. “You will not see this in the 2020 Olympics, but I suspect that for the next Olympics you might see something special”.

Nike Victory Swim Collection will be available from 1 February, 2020.

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