Nike apparel developer
Lisa Nishimoto makes sure
your favorite team looks
good on game day
By Jeremy Lloyd
“Do you know Michael Jordan?”
“Do you only wear Nike clothing?”
“Can you get me free shoes?”
There are a million silly questions that Nike employees are asked on a regular basis, and after eight years with the worldwide athletic footwear and apparel giant, Lisa (Foltz) Nishimoto has heard just about all of them.
She patiently answers each inquiry, knowing that the mystique surrounding the company’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., makes it the modern day equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for sports fans in the Northwest.
Well, all except one – “Do you design shoes?” To that, the answer is a resounding “No.” You see, Nishimoto, a 1998 graduate of George Fox, develops apparel for Nike – not shoes. “That’s another department,” she says in a way that’s kind, but just firm enough that you realize it’s not the first time she’s been asked.
“I work specifically on team product, which includes the uniforms and sideline gear for the high school and college levels,” she explains. Most of Nishimoto’s time is spent managing the process of how these highly technical and innovative pieces are created. She also oversees the process of taking those pieces from sketch form to the final physical product.
So, when the company decided to honor the rich heritage of the Army vs. Navy football game with special on-field uniforms for the 2011 contest, it was Nishimoto’s job to make sure it happened – and that both teams looked good.
Fifty-plus and Counting
Over the course of his 25-year career as director of college basketball sports marketing at Nike, Eric Lautenbach has watched game tape with legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and shared a limousine with NBA Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan, just to name a couple out-of-this-world sports experiences. What does he have in common with DJ Wolf, a recent college graduate who just caught on with the company in October of 2011? They’re both George Fox graduates.
The two can add their names to a list of more than 50 former Bruins who go to work each day at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Their graduation years range from 1987 to 2012, and their job titles vary from vice president to lifeguard coordinator.
But Nike isn’t the only athletic apparel and footwear company to target job applicants with a George Fox education. Most notably, Iiley Thompson (G84) serves as general manager for the outdoor footwear division of Under Armour, while while Kristin (Herkelrath) Jones (G01) is a senior merchandise manager in Adidas’ running apparel division.
So why do companies like Nike keep coming back to hire George Fox graduates? There are a lot of reasons, but one thing is certain: They just keep doing it.
The task – “one of the projects I was most passionate about,” she says – required that Nishimoto pore over every single detail of each team’s uniform (pictured left), from ensuring an aesthetically pleasing design to incorporating Nike’s latest performance elements into one package that the company could be proud to unveil in front of the tens of thousands of fans in attendance, not to mention millions of TV viewers.
But Nishimoto doesn’t just work on the team apparel you might see on the field of play – she also oversees the production of school-branded shirts, shorts, warm ups and all other manner of clothing that everyday fans like to wear to feel a little bit closer to their favorite amateur athletic program.
Growing up, Nishimoto always had an eye for fashion. “I loved to sew and be creative,” she says. At George Fox, she had the opportunity to pursue that love as a fashion merchandising major with a business minor. The combination of creative and practical studies “provided a foundation for understanding the business,” though she is quick to note that her position required a lot of on-the-job training. “Nike is a very unique place,” she says.
More importantly, Nishimoto grew in her faith at George Fox. “I started to realize what I believed was what I really wanted to believe, not just because I was raised to believe a specific way,” she says – a concept she describes as “choosing my faith.”
These days, Nishimoto keeps busy with husband Michael, two young children – Gemma (2 years) and Ryo (7 months) – and the occasional sewing or knitting project, in addition, of course, to representing the most recognizable athletic apparel brand on the planet.
So the next time you don your favorite team apparel, don’t forget that a George Fox alumnus could very well have had a hand in its creation. Your shoes? She didn’t have anything to do with those, so stop asking.