“Nike believes if you have a body, you’re an athlete,” says Martha Moore, vice president and creative director behind the design. That means everyone should be able to participate in sport—something Moore and her team noticed was a particular issue for women and girls in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, many of whom are kept out of water sports simply because they have nothing appropriate to wear. The full line, including the Nike Swim Hijab, Nike Full-Coverage Swim Tunic, and Nike Swim Leggings, launches February 1 on nike.com and in retail stores.
In the western world, burkinis tend to be controversial and a little bit misunderstood. But the stereotype is changing—2019 was, after all, the year Halima Aden made history as the first woman to appear in Sports Illustrated’s iconically sexy swimsuit issue in a burkini. So when they started the design process, Nike wanted to make sure they got the cultural nuances right. “When we started with the idea, we thought it was going to be a jumpsuit,” says Moore. “We were schooled. We were basically told no, it’s not about body conscious, it is about body skimming. And that really was a new paradigm for us to think about. What would that mean in terms of fabric? What would that mean in terms of fit? What would that mean in terms of support? And what would that mean in terms of hair management? That’s really where we started, those four big ideas,” she says.
Victory Swimsuits are big on technical innovations. The suits are made from nylon (most swimsuits are made of polyester) which doesn’t absorb water, to help avoid drag. Strategically placed mesh creates a gill-like effect that allows water to drain out of the suit once you’re on dry land. For support, the suit has a built in bra designed in part based on the insights Nike gathered while designing the World Cup uniforms for the USWNT. And as far as keeping hair covered? Nike went through 55 prototypes before landing on a hydrodynamically designed hijab that won’t budge during laps.
The final result is something Nike hopes does more than just solve practical performance needs. “The big fifth idea was to make it beautiful. Make it elegant, make it lovely, make it say ‘I feel strong and fierce,’” says Moore. “That’s a victory for women.”
Macaela MacKenzie is a senior editor at Glamour. Follow her on Twitter @MacaelaMack and on Instagram @MacaelaMac.