The process to create NIKE Forward requires fewer steps than traditional Nike knits or wovens, which significantly reduces the carbon footprint of the first generation Forward material — an average of 75% reduction compared to traditional knit fleece used by Nike.

The sportswear giant describes Nike Forward as a “game-changing innovation platform revolutionising apparel creation” that resets the way we think about fleece.

Over five years of research went into the development of Nike Forward, the company explains, adding the innovation, shifting from knit or woven, simplifies the process of material fabrication by reducing steps. Rather than follow a multistage (spin yarn, knit, cut, sew and more) creation cycle, Nike Forward turns fibre directly to textile through needle-punch.

Fewer steps means less energy consumption, contributing to an average of 75% reduction in the carbon footprint for this first-generation material compared to traditional knit fleece, Nike says.

Nike Forward material also has a lighter density than traditional knit fleece, which is crucial to reaching 75% carbon reduction, and the finished product is comprised of 70% recycled content by weight.

“Nike Forward feels different because it is different. It is not a traditional knit or woven, but a completely new material that drastically reduces its carbon footprint,” says Carmen Zolman, vice president innovation apparel design at Nike, Inc. says.

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Nike Forward can be made with a diverse range of layers, including industrial and post-consumer waste, with the material debuting in a grey hoodie. In keeping with its sustainable ethos, the hoodie forgoes embellishments and dyes, favouring raw cut pockets and zero water usage. 

Nike Forward is the latest advancement in over 30 years of sustainability-minded innovations, joining the ranks of Nike Air, Flyknit, Flyleather, Space Hippie and Next Nature. The platform is purpose-built and created for future circularity — the first iteration of Nike Forward products are made without zippers, aglets or extra trims, making it easier for the garments to be recycled.

“We believe this platform has the potential to reset the way we think about material and apparel. This is the biggest Nike apparel innovation since Dri-Fit 30 years ago and has huge potential to transform the industry in the way that Air and Flyknit did for Nike footwear,” says Aaron Heiser, vice president global apparel product merchandising, Nike, Inc.

Nike Forward debuts in Hoodie and Crew styles and releases globally on 15 September.

Nike recently partnered with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to launch an initiative to reduce injuries and deaths from road accidents among garment and footwear workers.