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Meet the Alumna: Marie Crow, Materials Design Director, Nike

29 January 2018 by Roger Tredre in Alumni Stories, Fashion, Features

Air Jordan 1 (AJ1) sketches

It’s always great when TexSelect alumna do well – and when they do well, land a major job at Nike, and are recognised by Vogue no less, it’s a true cause for celebration. Meet Marie Crow, materials design director, Nike.

Back in 2011, Marie Parsons was one of the stars of TexSelect (then named Texprint) with her versatile mixed-media portfolio. She had caught the eye of car maker Jaguar while still at the Royal College of Art, and also attracted the attention of US sports footwear giant Nike when she showed with TexSelect in Paris at Première Vision that year.

She ended up working for both these famous names, but it was the latter company that enticed her to America and her current status at their Portland HQ – now named Marie Crow, she’s Materials Design Director of Nike.

Flip back to 2011. As she told Vogue this January: “I first met Ariana, my vice president of materials, at Texprint, which is a graduate scholarship programme based in the UK. They take the best graduates in textiles and create a collective to give you the opportunity to show your work to industry leaders.”

She added: “Nike is great at connecting with new talent and emerging graduate designers, so I had the opportunity to meet them [at Texprint] and show them my work from there.”

Air Jordan 1 (AJ1) prototypes / Marie Crow

It was the start of an impressive career. Most recently at Nike, Marie and an all-female design team have reimagined iconic Nike designs Air Force 1 and the Air Jordan 1 (AJ1) in an intensive two-week project deliberately conceived to push the team’s creative imagination to the max.

The 14 women behind the project represented different skill sets within Nike’s more than 1,000-strong design group. The focus of their work was to establish five new articulations of both icons, unrestrained from concerns beyond pure design.

Interestingly, once initial ideas were on paper, the group headed to London, where the city’s fashion dynamism helped to inspire their work. Crow notes that the location was “exciting” as it allowed observation of how people “were wearing sneakers, styling them and, ultimately, what was relevant.”

Crow herself was in the group focusing on the Air Jordan 1. They initially explored expressive colour and materials for the collection but ultimately decided on a muted palette. “We soon realized that the silhouette had to be the headliner. Colour and materials had to be complementary and boldly wearable. So we looked at different blockings and different details that we could accentuate,” she says.

Air Jordan 1 (AJ1)

Crow’s innovative way with materials has been a constant in her career. Speaking to us in 2013, she recalled: “At the RCA, my work was about reinterpreting traditional hand embroidery techniques in innovative ways, through digital machine embroidery and laser cutting. My graduate project was a collection of digitally embroidered shoes and a luggage trunk both inspired by the depth of reverse applique and quilting, juxtaposing rigid plastics alongside tactile latex.”

This January, Vogue’s Naomi Pike asked her what is the hardest thing about her job at Nike. She said: “It’s probably the endless possibility of materials. It’s something that I’m super passionate and excited about. I think the 1 Reimagined project is a perfect example of that and knowing when materials are right for the right product and that coming together in harmony. I think knowing when to detach yourself from a material innovation that you’re very excited about and pair it with the right product. Sometimes that might take a few seasons until you get to that.”

And the best thing about life at Nike? “It’s the creative community we have at Nike. We have over 1,000 designers and we’re very much encouraged to collaborate, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to come here for those kind of world-leading design talent and peers. That really inspires me and goes back to that endless possibility. If there is something that I need to know or want to learn, there is somebody there that’s going to have that genius. It means you’re always learning from each other.”

Vogue credit: How to be a Nike Trainer Designer

Nike HQ, Portland, Oregon USA

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