Pussykrew Reconstructs The Forbidden City for Nike
With the rise of social media and accessible entrepreneurship, businesses are now operating on a global scale. In such a diverse marketplace, retailers are struggling to find ways to set their merchandise apart from the rest. In recent years, experiential endeavors, experience-based events, have become increasingly popular among retailers and brands alike to promote their product offerings. In their latest experiential collaboration with Nike, digital media artists, Pussykrew, deconstructed the traditional Chinese architecture of Beijing's Forbidden City to create key visuals for a large-scale campaign. The project included an activation which consisted of a four-weekend basketball tournament called the Beijing99.
“The campaign was created for Beijingers. It was inspired by China’s rich visual history, combined with the elements of modern art direction to celebrate the attitude and intensity of Beijing basketball players. In our designs, we referenced elements from the Forbidden City which features very traditional Chinese architecture - ancient wooden structures of the palace complex in central Beijing. We think the whole idea for the campaign was very inspiring and quite innovative. The team really put in the effort to create something that feels very inspired by the local culture and that could only exist in Beijing. All of the jerseys featured artworks based on Chinese folklore and Chinese mythology. It’s pretty iconic. They were inspired by different mythical beasts and elements that are a part of the Chinese heritage as a way to celebrate the local culture and history and celebrate the pride and ambition of Beijing’s younger athletes”
The brief's intent was specific: the purpose of the campaign was to inspire the people of Beijing to participate in more athletic endeavors. To do this, Nike planned to honor the top 99 Beijing basketball players in the city by creating a wearable ranking system on jerseys numbered 1 through 99. The basketball jerseys can only be won, and aren’t for sale.
“The collaboration was quite organic. There was a lot of creative exchange as we were trying to find the balance between the ancient historical inspirations and the modern artistic approach. We initially made more simple designs but while the project was moving forward, it really started growing and evolving. We definitely had creative input; we were involved in the whole process. As we were progressing with the project, the client and the agency and creative directors were kind of learning from us what is possible and how we could take it to another level, in an interesting way.”
All of the visuals that went into the campaign were to be directly related to the city’s history, with a modern interpretation to reach the Beijingers. The portraits were inspired by the 2000-year-old tradition of Chinese portrait painting crafted for emperors, empresses, and the elite. Nike planned to recreate those images in a modern interpretation featuring proud Beijing basketball players. The background 3D designs are inspired by the traditional buildings in the Forbidden City, such as the iconic rooftops, and follow themes of repetition, order, and symmetry. The inspirations were to come 80% from traditional architecture and city-based references and 20% basketball elements, focusing on a combination of geometric and abstract designs.
“It was pretty intense because we were 3D modeling single parts that were inspired by the old Beijing architecture while trying to create traditional Chinese patterns. We were basically drawing on 3D models, in the software, trying to recreate a few thousand years of Chinese culture. This was quite challenging, yet very enriching ” Pussykrew explained. “ We painted everything digitally using a tablet, we were drawing and painting by hand. We created collages from photos and had to trace every single detail and added new elements to make the design unique and consistent. I think what we did with the texture is interesting because while we were trying to recreate the patterns, we were also adding our take on the patterns. We added a bit of metal, gold and sheer, glossy details. Beside developing CG backgrounds for editorial and key elements for the campaign that were transformed into CNC machined models, we created jersey product shots. We were asked to 3D model the Jerseys and make hyper-realistic renders.
“To be honest, it was probably one of the craziest projects we ever did because of the complexity of the patterns. We had about three to four weeks to do all nine backgrounds and patterns. The project expanded so that those designs were printed for promotional materials all over the city. The basketball tournament featured a custom basketball court with decals and our 3D designs printed as physical sculptures. Our work was even projected on the Bell Tower in Beijing.”
In addition to Pussykrew’s contribution to this project, another interactive design studio from our B&A roster also collaborated with Nike to help bring their Beijing99 vision to life. Conceptual design house, ilovedust, worked with Nike on three of their basketball game jersey illustrations, The Bluebird, The Bear, and The Horse. “The brief was pretty in-depth. It included a lot of insight into the Chinese traditions and working styles. We partnered with Nike to create fresh takes on these Zodiac animals whilst maintaining a strong link to paintings and illustrations from the past.”
Bejing99 with Nike is one of the largest collaborations by B&A artists, creating something fresh and innovative that hasn’t been done before.