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September 3 2014

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1 posts tagged "Mark Parker"

Can’t Kick the Swoosh: A One-on-One With Nike CEO Mark Parker

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Nikes

Clad in his signature blazer, light blue shirt, dark jeans, and black sneakers embellished with gleaming white swooshes, Nike CEO Mark Parker took the stage in Barcelona last week like the Steve Jobs of sports gear. A crowd including just about every soccer journalist in the world, along with a smattering of international fashion and lifestyle media, had gathered in the Spanish city, where football is worshiped with religious fanaticism, to see Parker introduce Nike’s latest project: the Magista football boot. (That’s a soccer cleat to you, Yankees.) The new shoes will be worn by more than seventy players during the World Cup in Brazil this June.

The Magista’s radical design features a knit upper with a collar that covers the ankle. Not the most exciting footwear development for those who aren’t concerned with ball control, but as with any Nike announcement, it offered an occasion to consider how the sportswear giant will continue to keep a foothold in style.

Many Nike innovations—Free, Flyknit, Lunar—find a second life in the fashion world. For Parker, who got his start at Nike in 1979 working as a footwear designer, that’s an unintended side effect of the process. Even so, it was impossible to escape the swoosh during the Fall ’14 shows, as everyone from Susie Bubble to My Theresa’s Veronika Heilbrunner mixed Nikes with their high-styled fashion week looks. And then, of course, there’s Riccardo Tisci, whose admiration for the brand has manifested in a much-buzzed-about range of collaborative kicks. Here, Parker talks to Style.com about authenticity, the sport-fashion crossover, and what it means to be an innovator.

“Innovation” is a word that gets thrown around a lot when you talk to people at Nike. From a design perspective, what does the word mean to you?
Well, it is a word that I think, just in the general vernacular, gets thrown around too much and abused. I’m not speaking about Nike necessarily—just in general.

For us it actually means creating a product that is truly new and better, so it’s about improving. We’re a performance-based company; we strive to help athletes get better and realize their potential. But “better” is a key word.

We take input from everyone, so the innovation process at Nike is driven by being incredibly observant; by the relationship we have with athletes; and by the deep, personal connections we have. We don’t just think about what athletes need to perform but what they need as individuals, as people with opinions. It’s not just about performance but aesthetics, too. So all of that gets factored in along with the latest in technologies, materials, components, and processes to improve.

You mentioned aesthetics. Often the big Nike innovations trickle down into the Nike Sportswear line, or they wind up being used by people who aren’t just concerned about performance but about fashion and style. At what point does that enter the equation?
Along the way. In many cases, after the fact. We don’t set out to try to be fashionable. That’s a by-product or a result. That’s fine. But we’re driven by trying to solve problems, and those problems are primarily functional problems.

We do, as I said, take into account the aesthetic, because that’s really important as an athlete—how do you look? When you look at yourself in the mirror, you want to look like you’re fast, you want to look like you’re strong, you want to look like you’re expressive, you have your own personal style. That’s part of the process, but it’s not like we’re sitting there saying, “We need to create something that is driven by trying to be fashionable.”

I think the authenticity and the uniqueness that comes from solving problems—the form that follows the function—is what makes us interesting from a fashion standpoint. Continue Reading “Can’t Kick the Swoosh: A One-on-One With Nike CEO Mark Parker” »