Not just industry firsts, but game changers, hate using that phrase, but these products made an impact and have helped progress Nike's Sportswear product to where it is today. Below are a few examples of innovative color/design solutions.
It was the first or second season of Icons and the goal of that category was to edit, reduce sku count and create fewer but better options. This was right at that time when the "Indie" consumer and the "Urban" consumer were starting to overlap, it was becoming more difficult to distinguish the differences between these two consumer types. We (marketing counterpart and myself) had tried Liberty once before and hit a roadblock with the materials team, but when we presented the concept again in 2006 the right team was in place to make it happen. Now Liberty is used regularly on the Sky High, AM1, Roshe.... Liberty has become as popular as camo on street wear and is being used on, Vans, Gola, Onitsuka Tiger and Supreme among others. I had envisioned an ongoing Liberty + Nike collaboration, maybe every couple years use it to generate buzz around a new product or a product that had fallen behind a bit. I definitely feel like Liberty should have been left in the back pocket and brought out when it would be least expected. This collaboration had also brought attention to women's street wear and it was an opportunity to start collaborations with textile and print designers that women may appreciate slightly more than men. However, initially this concept was meant to be unisex as most everything I do is.
Paule Marrot prints are not as well known as Liberty, but it was a successful collaboration nonetheless. Drafting off the success of Liberty, we were able to introduce Paule Marrot, this was right before I left Nike in 2008 - I had a plan and a list in my head of other collaborations that targeted this niche market -partnerships with textile designers that would help diversify the Nike consumer and surprise the cool hunters every year with something unexpected. There was an opportunity to bring the same kind of attention and energy to women's sneakers that in the past had only been given to men's.
A mostly tonal upper with brightly colored midsoles, this blocking is now common among most running shoe brands. As far as I know this was first done on the Nike Decades of Air, the first powerwall and shoedog award winner in 2005. To set the Tier Zero (pinnacle) product apart from the rest of the wall, all black uppers with bright colored midsoles was the solution. Immediately after the success of the powerwall other categories and brands started using this blocking and it doesn't seem to be going away. As the color designer for Mark Parker's first powerwall, with a quickstrike timeline, I was successful at cohesively coloring a collection of 56 pairs of shoes that would be merchandised together on one wall.
The brief for this Court Force was to take inspiration from music festivals, we had talked about doing a mushroom print on the midsole, which didn't work out, but the multi-colored craziness that we ended up with was still appropriate.
Premium Basics was an opportunity to reach the consumer who was a bit older, had a bit more money to spend, wanted the best without looking like a sucker. Premium Basics was a basic color blocking like a triple black, grey, white or brown or a mostly tonal upper with a mix of premium materials.
I was also EXTREMELY fortunate to be part of many other Nike firsts, like Hybrids, Vintage, Considered and Icons, my color executions on these concepts had to be as innovative as the concepts themselves.
As important as product innovation is process innovation. Blocking strategies for Nike's most iconic footwear is now standard practice for Nike color designers. For Nike Icons the Dunk was reset to it's original blocking and colorways. I had worked on the Dunk for years and with the new category, Icons, it was the right time to start over. This blocking strategy and use of the original Dunk colors became the Nike BE TRUE campaign. Part of the success of Icons was that we were able to reach a broad range of consumers with one collection. There was also innovation in the way we created a tiering strategy, as the categories grew we had to redefine our consumer and ultimately we were able to hit 3 different levels of distribution for Indie and 5 levels for Icons and still maintain one cohesive story through the strategic use of color and material.
When I started working at Converse in 2008, I was hired as a footwear designer for Product (red) and First String (energy). I was the first designer to use a photo print on a Chuck Taylor, this was the concept for the Damien Hirst collaboration. Nike had just used photo-real prints for the Beautiful Losers project, so I knew it could be done. Product (red) was given the use of a Damien Hirst piece titled I Love You, which is butterflies and household gloss on canvas. I wanted the butterflies to look as real as possible, doing the photo print was the solution. This was also an opportunity for Converse to explore using photos on their customized product. The use of photos on the Chuck Taylor has been done a few times since and Adidas has recently made customization with photos possible. Paul Smith has been doing it for years and Riccardo Tisci did well with the Rottweiler for Givenchy.
I also took what I had learned from working on Nike Hybrids with me to Converse and combined Lunar technology with a Chuck Taylor upper, the original concept was a woven slip on Chuck Taylor which was later updated to a more affordable slipper with a mesh upper version.