Since Mark Parker became CEO of Nike
in 2006, Nike’s annual revenue has risen 60%, profits have increased by 57% and its market cap has more than doubled. But every single role in the global sports empire is vital in order to keep the business fluid, moving with the times and adapting to change so it maintains its position as one of the most relevant lifestyle brands in existence. All employees, naturally, require a comparable level of fluidity. The brand actively searches outside of design norms for inspiration and a brand that looks everywhere for inspiration, becomes attractive to the consumer on many more levels.
It made perfect sense, then, for Nike to hire Kristin Reiter as their Global Concept Director. With a background in fashion design, she’s familiar with a more high-end concept of fashion. We exchanged a few words with Kristin to learn about what it’s like to merge streetwear and high fashion for one of the world’s most recognized brands.
How did you come to work at Nike, what is your role there and what does it entail?
I was working in LA and was fortunate enough to meet one of my mentors, Martin Lotti, who is now the VP Creative Director for Global Football. I took him through the collection work that I had been doing along with the brand marketing work with my blog at the time. I think we both decided on the spot that I needed to move to Portland.
My title at Nike is Global Concept Director and the role is fairly new as it’s a bit of a bridge between product design and brand marketing. My career hasn’t exactly been a traditional path, so the role fits perfectly. As an example, I’ll be working on the seasonal concept direction, designing product, working on a presentation for an event that links back to our concept while also working on a consumer profile – my dream job.
What is your vocational/educational background?
Fashion design. However, I’ve got ongoing studies in quite a few areas.
How has your upbringing impacted your work ethic?
My parents both worked two jobs and told me that I could do anything I wanted with hard work. I have a rocket tattooed on my right wrist as a committed reminder of this lesson.
Working for Nike, how have you experienced a crossover between sportswear and high fashion?
Not a day goes by that I’m not working with both sportswear and high fashion as mediums together. That fusion between culture, innovation and science is not only inspiring but absolutely necessary to the creative process – it would be difficult to name a particular instance in which this doesn’t happen at Nike. It would be like fire without air.
How would you describe your time at Nike so far?
Exhilarating. Working for Nike requires such a different level of performance, in all aspects of my life. While it hasn’t been easy, I can confidently say that I’m a better version of myself as a result of working for Nike.
What inspires and encourages you creatively?
I live for those moments when I get to see a glimpse of the future. It doesn’t matter what type of advancement it is or what field it came from, it’s just very grounding to know that we as the human race are contributing to evolution. Creation then becomes a valid existence for me.
“That fusion between culture, innovation and science is not only inspiring but absolutely necessary to the creative process.”
What gives you job satisfaction?
Knowing that I’m contributing to the world.
You split your time between LA and Portland, how do both of these places inspire you and your work?
I love the West Coast. There’s versatility to both places that I really like and the general attitude towards life is optimistic. I study more mind and body in Portland and more culture in LA. I also refuse to surf Oregon, so I’m in LA for that.
How do you balance design and style in the products you work on?
The design part of product creation depends on the problem I’m trying to solve and the style part is intuitive. (Intuition is a muscle that I happen to work with quite a bit.) It ends up being a gut feeling in the end.
What’s been your favorite project you’ve worked on at Nike?
Working on products for next year’s World Cup. Hands down. My lips are sealed here till the tournament starts, however, it’s been insane to work on!
If you can whittle it down to one, what is your favorite sneaker at the moment?
Nike Flyknit Racer. And if I could pick just one more would be the Nike Air Yeezy 2.
Do you have any career advice that you yourself follow?
Do what you love. Work hard. And Aim REALLY high.
Photography: Luis Ruano for Highsnobiety