To categorize it as a pair of “customs” might be inaccurate since so much work was put into it. Instead, the Nike Air Force 1 “AF1 Year of the Horse” by Zhijun Wang of ZJ Design is more like a work of art. Following his “Year of the Dragon” edition in 2012 and “Year of the Snake” edition last year, the Beijing-based designer went back to his favorite medium, the iconic Nike Air Force 1, for this year’s YOTH theme.
Inspired not just by the Chinese Zodiac but war horses used back in ancient China, the “Year of the Horse” also features pyrography, where intricate designs are burnish into the leather itself. Furthermore, Wang taught himself the technique of leather carving through much of 2013 and took this opportunity to combine the two skills. Completely hand-crafted from measuring out the template, leather cutting, to the tanning process and finally, stitching the layers together, the “Year of the Horse” in corporate a removable “leather armor” with nine elaborate herringbone-like plates. Secure to the sneaker by shoelaces and hidden Velcro, the armor includes the Chinese characters for “Horse” carved onto the toe cap, with “Jia Wu” and “2014” on the each sides. Stitching in the likeness of the Chinese character “Wu” pull the whole contraption together.
Partially colored in golden yellow with mane-like decoration etched via pyrography, the Air Force 1 itself features a leather sheath along the midsole. The character for “Horse” appears once again along with the ZJ Design logo on both sides of the tongue label. Finally, the same double branding is found on the large hang tag.