Blacklisted_Nike

10 years ago today I left Nike.  Below is the email my manager at the time sent out announcing my last day.

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Conversation: How Do You Create Heat?
Subject: How Do You Create Heat?

We all spend hours searching blogs and researching what kids think about Nike, the Sneaker Game, and Innovation. 
Most times, Nike is in the lead and most times, the color that pushes the industry forward has come from the hand of 1 color designer.

Powerwall
One Time Only
One Night Only
Nike Considered
Tier Zero
Quickstrike
Hyperstrike
Probe
Hybrids
Liberty
Harris Tweed
Stussy
Vintage
CDG
SOPH

The list is deep and the list is INDUSTRY DEFINING.  It is with much regret, no sadness, that I have to announce Tracie Wiest’s last day with us is tomorrow.
Yep, in typical Energy form, we’ve kept it quite cause that’s the nature of this crew.

We often talk about the creatives behind the scenes, behind the curtain, and behind the Mac’s that make the magic happen at Nike.
SlamxHype.comHypebeast.comSneakerfreaker.comBeinghunted.comCrookedtongues.com, and countless others have chat forms and bloggers who talk about the sneaker game Tracie has helped define over the last 4 years. 

She’s on her way to Boston and will no doubt continue to grow both creatively and more importantly as a mother.
Those who don’t know, Tracie and Angelo had a little girl, Helen. (or as she call’s her Pea)
She’s going to hang out with Pea for a minute while she figures out what’s next on her journey.

Best of Luck to Tracie, Angelo, and Pea.

Jesse Leyva
Design Director – NSW Sneakers
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And I’ve been blacklisted ever since. 

I had worked with and learned from the best in the industry. In 2010 I was trying to return to Nike after working at Converse for 2 years, I had experience that couldn’t be matched by many if anyone. Color Design isn’t rocket science, but knowing the consumer and the culture, being able to tap into what the consumer is going to want before anyone else is doing it, figuring out a strategy and a way to evolve and prolong the retail life of sneakers while staying relevant takes foresight and a history with the product and I had proven success doing this. I had no design background before I started at Nike, but I had a connection to a niche market few were able to reach.

Before resigning from Converse I was told by a Nike VP, returning wouldn’t be a problem.  She had me speak with a recruiter, who had just started at Nike from Intel, and without actually asking any questions or seeing my portfolio he let me know that they were looking for a fresh perspective.  First of all, how would a nerd from Intel know how fresh my perspective was or is? And secondly, my daughter’s father got hired back without any concern over his perspective.  

I left Nike on good terms and at one point while I was still working there, there was an effort to have me moved to another category, Jayme Martin fought to keep me on Jesse Leyva’s team working on Energy/Indie and Icons, his argument was that not all color designers are created equal. Someone as high-up as JM would fight to keep me working under Jesse but then no one could do anything to get me hired back?? References from Creative Director’s and VP’s weren’t even enough to be considered for jobs I was more than qualified for.

The higher-ups were aware that Angelo and I had both quit our jobs with Converse and the plan was for the both of us to go back to working at Nike, they also knew that we were splitting-up once we were relocated to Oregon from Massachusetts.  Once I was back in Portland I was an unemployed single mom in one of the worst job markets in the country and blocked from all jobs with the biggest employer.  HR said there wasn’t anything in my file that would prevent me from getting hired back. Not knowing that I had actually been blacklisted, thinking I would get rehired, I missed out on other opportunities, and in hindsight, would have been better off staying in MA.  I can’t explain how psychologically, financially and emotionally damaging being blacklisted is, with little or no regard for my welfare and from a company I spent close to 10 years working for - it was a bullshit way to handle my situation.  Even when a person is fired or laid-off there’s a reason, they are told why they are being fired. I probably will never know the truth about why I was blacklisted. I’ve heard different things, but nothing that would be justification for ending my career.  Nike was and probably still is a boys club. I can safely say I never did anything my managers didn’t do and they are all easily climbing the corporate ladder. I’m sure there were times when I was an asshole, especially If I felt I had to defend myself, but this same exact behavior was never seen as a problem for my male counterparts.

Over the years I could have maybe learned to accept not being rehired if I was seeing a lot of innovation around color and material coming from Nike, but I’m not. Where is this fresh perspective that the recruiter was looking for because it’s not happening with color or concepts? There's a lot of shit being done that the Energy/Indie team already did, at least I would have taken color design somewhere new instead of just repeating what has already been done. And as a constant, but bittersweet reminder of the career I once had, there are concepts that I helped get into the marketplace that are still being used by Nike today. Occasionally, I will come across articles like this one about a girl who collects sneakers, her favorite pair out of 100 are from the blue-ribbon row of the powerwall, one of Mark Parker's projects which I did the color on and the team received a shoe dog award for. 

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There’s also this interview with MP from 2015 where he talks about collaborations, 7 of the 12 shoes featured in the, A Selection of Collaborations From Nike’s Archives 1985-2014 section of that article were one’s I had worked on, statistically that’s pretty good considering how many designers there are and have been since.  I’ve also heard that the only pair of Converse MP has in his office are the Damien Hirst Chuck Taylor’s which I did the design/concept for.  And yet, not qualified for anything.