Wie Sustainable Fashion von NIKE lernen kann
Zeitgeist Blog

How sustainable fashion can learn from NIKE

von Michel Oldehaver am Sep 14, 2021 | Lesezeit:

Before someone yells: “Nike does not manufacture fairly in terms of working conditions, nor does it manufacture sustainably in terms of holistic supply chains. Yes, that's right, this article is dedicated to the courage to start with something uncertain and make it big - in our opinion, it is exactly this founding spirit that is needed in the production of new goods such as brands like Pangaia impressively demonstrate on the one hand and in the second-hand & vintage trade on the other , which is still too niche and does not set the usual market standards for delivery speed, transparency and customers. With this claim, we brought Zeitgeist Vintage to life - and call on fashion and environmentally conscious people to start their own projects.

What but you can learn from Nike - whose success in building a brand (in the traditional fashion industry) speaks for itself

get excited on vintage Nike styles? Here you can find them.

Nike's success is thanks to a special friendship

Because it is the story of a special friendship. Phil Knight & Bill Bowerman's. Well known today as the Nike Founder, Phil is himself a runner and a business administration student. He wrote his thesis appropriately about the choice of location for sports shoe production. Bill Bowerman is probably the most successful running coach in the history of the USA with 31 Olympians, 51 All-Americans & also Nike co-founder.

Nike Co-Gründer Bill Bowerman mit Athleten

Why is the friendship between the two special? They are not college buddies - no - the Nike founders have a teacher-student relationship as Bill Bowerman is Phil Knight's running coach. And at the same time, as Nike grows, Phil also becomes Bill's boss. A rare constellation, but they have one thing in common: the love of running and a certain aversion to Adidas and Puma. Because German sports companies dominated the global sports shoe market in the 1960s.

Phil Knight is certain that Germany is not a suitable place to manufacture the shoes. In order to make the shoes more affordable, Japan should be preferred as a production location. Bill Bowerman was less bothered by the price than by the arrogance of adidas and Puma, who were critical of his ideas for improving the shoes. He also works on all sorts of sports shoes himself. Bowerman is convinced that the runners are not at their optimum speed because the shoes are not.

Ultimately, the mutual drive motivates Phil Knight to travel to Japan with some borrowed money from his father. He came back with a commercial contract for Onitsuka Tiger (now Asics) shoes, which he sometimes sold exclusively for Tiger from 1964 to 1971. Familiarize yourself with selling merchandise and earn some money on the side.

Because of disagreements with his supplier, he developed the Nike brand from 1971/72, named after the Greek goddess of victory. In our Special Treasures series we discussed one of the items of clothing that testifies to the emergence of Nike's own identity, but also a vintage piece that still embodies the zeitgeist of the time: the Nike college jacket Est. 1972.

Funnily enough, Phil Knight says that while he understood that it takes a sports brand to sell apparel, he initially looks at marketing costs. Here you can see that a strong focus on costs also has its pitfalls.

Fortunately, the first few people who join the company are better positioned in terms of their marketing skills.Nike's first store manager, Jeff Johnson, almost converted the team with his conviction of a consistent brand appearance. What many people don't know, he also came up with the idea of ​​actually calling Nike Nike. Also interesting is the role of Bob Woodell, a former runner who is in a wheelchair after an accident and always has a critical perspective on the sometimes not very diverse views of the other Nike shareholders and whose parents give the company an early loan.

Nike and the good hand with young athletes

But is Nike known for vintage varsity jackets? No, of course for the sports shoes and clothing. But how did Nike manage to become a globally relevant sport and later also a lifestyle brand, which was mainly created by running icons like Steve Prefontaine and many others?

Many of you will be waiting for the answer. Of course, it was Michael Jordan in basketball and lifestyle models like the popular Nike Air Max or Nike Air Force 1 that were even sung about by rap greats like Shindy: “The biggest concern back then was that I needed this Air Force One”.

The aspect of underpaid attention is important here. What does that mean? Especially in the highly competitive fashion environment, a young brand but also a new trading platform depends on buying range as cheaply as possible. You can generally summarize three different approaches:

  1. Use emerging social media platforms early - who knew the TikTokers Charli D'Amelio or Bella Poarch 2 years ago? Nobody. Today they have an audience of millions. Why? Quite simply: TikTok. They delivered good content early on in the context of the platform. Enough said.
  2. Use emerging content creators as brand ambassadors. Ultimately, this is simply the other side of the coin, with the advantage that the brand or the retailer do not have to produce any content themselves.
  3. Guerrilla marketing campaigns for which, for example, fritz kola from Hamburg has become known, which can have a local effect and attract a lot of attention if they are different and new.
  4. Use the inertia of the competitors, who often do not keep up with new trends in Google searches with their search engine optimization.

Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan for Nike

Last but not least, the athleisure trend, which has become increasingly stronger over the past 20 years, has ensured that sportswear is also worn outside of sports, as well as the rise of hip -Hop or rap as the leading musical medium with strong cross-connections to the American basketball scene, the skate scene and thus ultimately the development of streetwear meant that for some fans Nike is more relevant (and in some cases more expensive) than Louis Vuitton. The sponsoring would be done today - at a time when basketball players, soccer players, golfers and much more. Bind a million followings on social media - probably also see it as influencer marketing.

You want to carry the spirit of that time yourself? Then buy Vintage Nike at Zeitgeist.

Never lose contact with the young target group

Where Nike's founding circle was relatively young in the 70s, by the time the brand was gaining global fame they were middle-aged men and arguably less interested in trying out every trend. In order to prevent this aging, partnerships with universities and schools are a good idea.Nike has close ties with the University of Oregon, both directly and through partnerships with Phil Knight. Nike designs the University of Oregon football program's team apparel. New, unique combos are released before each game day, these unique items are released. Tinker Hatfield, who also redesigned the university's logo, is leading this effort. The company recently donated $13.5 million toward the renovation and expansion of Hayward Field. Phil Knight has invested significant personal funds in the development and maintenance of the University's athletic facilities. His university projects often involve Nike designers and executives, such as: B. the designer of the Nike Air Jordans and the Nike Air Max shoes Tinker Hatfield.

Ultimately, the Nike logo itself - the world-famous Swoosh - comes from the creativity of a student from the University of Oregon.

Early Nike employees or fans infront of a sportswear shop

What can founders learn from this?

At this point it should be said again that it is not about presenting Nike as a blueprint for sustainability and fair working conditions, but about thinking about the possibilities of rapid growth of sustainable business models by analyzing the success and failure of conventional fashion players .

In general, every start-up, including Nike's, is about courage but also confidence in the future. The founders develop an idea and follow it up with action, even if the outcome is uncertain. They choose an industry that they have already got to know through their own interest and passion (for running) and understand the needs of the buyers because they are buyers themselves.

Furthermore, Phil Knight recognizes the potential of his own identity, i.e. a sports brand, which is also one of the reasons why he did not deal with a third-party brand (Asics) for long and developed Nike with the help of the employees at the time. Anyone starting up in the lifestyle sector today should realize that a good story and a well-groomed Instagram profile are not enough to lure someone out from behind the fireplace. It is therefore important to make it clear whether you can leverage underpaid attention potential for you. At this point, my recommendation would always be long-term brand ambassadors with a high affinity to the product and the brand.

Bill Bowerman had less of a commercial orientation but was very interested in the product. He wanted his runners to perform at their best and recognized early on that the material is just as relevant to this as the runner himself. So he began to innovate sports shoes. His most famous shoe is still a classic today: the Nike Cortez.

Even if the founding team doesn't seem diverse from today's perspective when it comes to attitudes towards the business areas, they are. Bill runs R&D for Nike so has a strong product focus. Phil Knight as the founder has a strong focus on costs, he looks for cheap production locations and knows well the profit potential of the product through the previous trading business. Jeff Johnson recognizes the potential of a strong brand and the feelings it inspires, and Bob Woodrell asks intelligent questions, forcing founders to question themselves and their beliefs. Even though they are ultimately a group of white males, if you look closely you can learn something about founding teams.

A rule of thumb would be: If If everyone agrees, then it's no good, and if everyone argues and can't agree on a compromise, that's no good either.It's about a culture of constructive, honest feedback in order to make quick progress and also be able to quickly admit mistakes

At the same time, one should not forget, too with a sustainable purpose that your product certainly has, great marketing and an experienced founding team, you need one thing (for some the most annoying thing) in the world: money. That's why I can only recommend that as a sustainable founder you start thinking about it at an early stage. The idea that banks like GLS and Tomorrow can support every green startup does not correspond to reality, so the financing should also be looked at carefully.

We are your vintage shop for used clothing

We founded Zeitgeist Vintage in 2020. We are five friends from northern Germany and used the time during the lockdown to found a vintage online shop. At Zeitgeist you will find everything your heart desires in terms of second-hand and vintage.

Feel free to browse through our new, old items in the New In area. If you are interested in If you decide to buy from us, we will send your order to you on the same day or the next and ensure a smooth process with double quality checks, our own size guide and - in the worst case - free returns.

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