I’ve written before how I’m a huge fan of Nike’s subtle “tributes” to things they don’t actually hold the license for, the latest example being a line of Prestos based on Star Wars characters like Boba Fett. These upcoming Hello Kitty sneakers, though, are the real deal.
These have actually been rumoured for a while now, and were first thought to be a long-overdue public release of this 2004 collaboration, which were supposed to see a wider drop but ended up landing in the hands of just a few dozen lucky friends and family:
For those not into sneaker history, these shoes are kinda infamous! The peachy/pink colourway above was designed by Fragment’s Hiroshi Fujiwara, while the black one was worked on by Steven Smith, the “Godfather” of modern sneaker design whose credits range from the Reebok InstaPump Fury to the Nike Zoom Air Spectrum to Adidas’ Yeezy line. There were a further two colourways planned that never made it into production, as Smith recalls in this 2018 feature on Highsnobiety (disclaimer: I have written for this site):
The Hello Kitty Air Presto was part of a project to celebrate the character’s 30th anniversary in 2004. Initially, according to Smith, the pack was supposed to get a limited-but-available release. But ultimately only an estimated 12 pairs of each colorway made their way to friends and family of Nike and Hello Kitty maker Sanrio. “I’m not sure why they became so limited,” says Smith. “The original plan was for 500 of each style when the project was first presented to me.”
It might sound odd given Hello Kitty’s target demographic, but Smith was the ideal candidate to design the shoe. “Mark Parker [now Nike CEO, then co-president] knew how much I loved Japan and Sanrio,” he says. “I would bring in my Hello Kitty waffle iron and make everyone Hello Kitty head waffles once or twice a year just for fun. I brought my lunch every day in a Hello Kitty or Bad Badtz-Maru lunchbox. It just seemed natural that I should work on the special project for Hello Kitty’s anniversary.”
Those rumours proved to be a little off, though, because the first images of an officially-licensed 2022 collab have turned up this week and they show a new design, featuring a blue colourway and, cutest of all, a custom heelcup that feature’s Hello Kitty’s face and trademark bow.
Alongside the shoes, there is also going to be a line of clothing to go with them, featuring shirts like this:
The whole line is scheduled to drop on May 2.