In 2004, Japan’s most popular and iconic cartoon character celebrated its 30th anniversary. The Sanrio character, designed by Yuko Shimizu, first made an appearance in 1974. Hello Kitty was an instant success. The cartoon character has become one of the most recognizable icons in the entire world, and it has appeared in so many different kinds of products and industries—from paper to food, television, toys, kitchenware, apparel, and so forth. So in a special celebration of its 30th anniversary, it was only right that the creators of the cartoon partner up with another iconic company.
Nike has always been known for its collaborations. The shoe giant has partnered up with some of the biggest names in music, art, film, dance, sports, and so many other brands to create some of the most unique products in the shoe market. The creators of Hello Kitty wanted to tap into that kind of energy for their anniversary, so they reached out to Nike. Nike was more than willing to make this collaboration happen, and next thing you know, Hello Kitty Prestos were released into the wild. However, there were rumors that only a dozen of them were actually made. Apart from its rarity, there are many other things that make this collaboration extra special.
The shoe itself is a Nike Air Presto. When it first came out in 2000, it was one of the most innovative sneakers Nike had ever produced. It was unparalleled when it came to comfort, and it was the first shoe that became part of the Nike Free program. That program was dedicated to providing shoes that mimic bare feet for runners—to provide runners with the experience of barefoot running that’s as close to real as possible. The Air Presto was a huge sell partly because of its design, and the marketing was also a big part of it all. However, Nike kept pushing the Free program. As a result, the Air Presto got lost in all the hype. In recent years, we’ve seen an Air Presto resurgence with the release of several limited edition designs. This is exactly where and when the Hello Kitty x Nike Air Presto collaboration took place.
The people behind the project made it all even more special. Known as the godfather of streetwear, Hiroshi Fujiwara is considered to be one of the biggest influencers in the streetwear industry. He’s the founder of Fragment Design, and he’s worked with every single major streetwear player out there. Fujiwara partnered with Steven Smith for the Hello Kitty design. Steven Smith is mainly associated with the design for the InstaPump Fury and the Nike Zoom Air spectrum. There were a total of four different designs created for the Nike Air Presto Hello Kitty. Fujiwara’s Fragment Design designed the first one. It was a white/pink design that screams Fujiwara all over. The second design is Steven Smith’s, and it consisted of a black/blue design—equally as stunning as the first and starkly unique as well. There were two other color designs, but these two were by far the ones that shoe aficionados were waiting to get their hands on.
Unfortunately, production for the shoes went down significantly before the shoe was even released. Nike production had originally scheduled 500 of each of the color style, yet only 12 went into production and into the closets of those with proper connections. This shoe is as rare as they come, and that why the Hello Kitty Nike Air Prestos has become a holy grail for Nike shoe collectors all over the world. There have been many rumors about a sale of one of these shoes. Some claim that a pair of these were found at a Goodwill store and bought for a mere $10. Some say there’s one displayed online for resale at $3,000. These shoes are so elusive that it’s quite difficult to say if any of those rumors were actually true.
The shoe itself might not appeal to the masses given that the icon has a specific target audience. However, Hello Kitty has outgrown its audience, and it continues to do so. Fujiwara’s pink/white design features a white upper decked out with a bunch of full-bodied Hello Kitty characters—each one doing something different from the other. The icons are scattered randomly throughout the shoe upper, and on the center top of the shoe is a nearly invisible Swoosh mark. The tongue of the shoe is stitched, and the lacing is average. There are pink rubber detailings on the sides of the shoe that also connect to and act as eyelets for lacing. The outsole of the shoe is all white, reminiscent of the upper. It has the contours of the typical Nike Air Prestos and the resulting shoe is amazing.
On the other hand, the Steven Smith design is a dark contrast to Fujiwara’s. There’s a visible black Swoosh on the gray upper of the shoe. That gray area is decked with the famous Hello Kitty head—in gray scale. There’s another Swoosh on the bottom white part of the shoe, which is capped by a black rubber heel and a blue rubber outsole. The black rubber detailing on the side also serves as the eyelets for lacing. Overall, the total effect is mesmerizing—that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Hello Kitty fan or not. The shoe itself turns you into a fan. You also didn’t need to be a shoe collector in order to appreciate this Nike Presto Hello Kitty collection. This collaboration is definitely worth celebrating. There are few sneakers out there that successfully feature an icon like this Air Presto does.