that’s been true. I mean, think of green, scratchy
toilet paper. Not good, right?
The reframe that happened is that we stopped
seeing sustainability and labor rights as a risk
and burden [and instead] as a source of innovation. Whether it’s about women’s rights or
sustainability or women in the supply chain, if
you flip it to be about an innovation opportunity,
people step into that space with less fear. And that
A W : Think about what’s happening in our culture.
We’re getting inundated with crazy. If we can separate ourselves from the crazy for a brief moment,
we have a beautiful opportunity. When Philando
Castile was killed, Twitter went crazy. And I was
scared to say the wrong thing. Everybody gets
ridiculed whether you say something or you don’t
say something, or you say it the wrong way or you
misspell it. Sydney Leroux, my teammate, who is
a woman of color, texted me and said, “Abby, your
silence is deafening.” So my advice is to just say
something and know that [if] it’s grounded with
the right intention, it will be heard with that same
intention. And if somebody takes it wrong, that’s on
them, you know? We just have to say something.
How do you choose the words?
HJ: We [at Nike] talk a lot about safe spaces. I
like the words brave spaces because I like radical
candor and courageous conversations. It starts
by surrounding yourself with people who don’t
think like you and don’t look like you and have
different backgrounds. If you contest narrative
and language and ideas and solutions within
that space where everybody feels they belong
and they have a voice, you’re going to understand
pretty quickly whether your language and your
idea has resonance. I think it’s the catalyst that
you need to spark new solutions.
AW: We’re all in shock in certain ways. It’s like
you can’t talk to the person across the aisle. I
think that that’s bullshit, truthfully. The only way
we can actually start having conversations is to
enter with curiosity instead of predetermined
judgment. Fear can’t stand proximity. So if you
learn how to talk with people, you will find com-monalities. And if you’re questioning whether
you should do something, whether it’s going to
piss people off, think again.
HJ: There is a difference between being disruptive and destructive. If you’re disruptive and
you’re constructive, then you push the argument
forward, you push the idea forward. But disruptive as a destructive force just takes us back.
A W: It’s immature, right? You can’t just rail. You
have to have solutions.
President Trump caused a stir in professional
sports when he started tweeting negatively
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about player protests. Abby, you spoke out in
favor of players being able to express themselves, and Nike quickly issued a statement
in support of athletes. What are your roles in
these larger cultural debates?
A W: I’m not going to say that it’s not complicated.
My former teammate, Megan Rapinoe, had been
taking the knee in support of [Colin Kaepernick].
It’s a conversation that has completely lost the
initial meaning. Now it’s about respect and the
flag instead of what it was truly about, which
is black lives being brutally assaulted by police
officers. Having played on the National Team for
the better part of my career, I am a fierce patriot.
Last year, when this conversation was going on
with Megan, I found myself really conflicted. It
wasn’t because of Colin or Megan, it’s because of
this thing that I’m trying to figure out, the institution that I was raised in, the things I talk about as
a U.S. citizen and as a patriot. What am I standing
and pledging allegiance to?
Truthfully, Colin Kaepernick is an American
hero, somebody who has put his life’s work at risk
and is paying the price for it. If he were to go back
and try to change things, do I think he would do
anything differently? Hell no. Because of the conversation this is sparking. We have to keep the conversation going in the direction of where it began.
HJ: I sit in a corporation for which this is an incredibly important conversation. We learned the
hard way that when you don’t use your voice for
advocating for good and you don’t stand up for
your values, that silence quickly becomes misinterpreted. We come from a long heritage with
[Nike founder] Phil Knight of always standing for
the athlete, always. He is fierce about it. At key
moments in cultural context, political context,
we have to stand for what we believe in.
And we believe in the science of climate
change, so we have stood loudly and proudly for
the Paris agreement. We have built up coalitions
of the willing to fight for [it]. And when the administration decided to withdraw from the agreement, we were overt about our disagreement. We
have consistently stood with LGBTQIA, including
being part of the amicus brief for civil union. We
continue to stand for it. We have stood against
the immigration ban. And then we’ve stood with
all those who knelt. We will continue to use our
voice. It’s not an easy space. But a brand that
doesn’t stand for something is no longer a brand
worth working for.
You two seem to accentuate the positives, even
in difficult situations. Why?
HJ: William Gibson, the sci-fi writer, said the
future is here, it’s just not distributed equally.
Think about the sustainability movement—you
fly across the world and you see windmill farms
everywhere. It doesn’t matter what the U.S. administration is doing; we are all moving to renewable
energy. Nike will be at 100% renewable energy in
all our facilities in the Americas within the next
couple of years. And it’s not just because it’s an act of
benevolence. It’s because it’s good for business.
thing is to look at your connection to the customer and how their behavior is changing. For
us, it’s going to be hyperconvenient or hyper-experiential. People will want to come into a
space, but there’s going to have to be a reason,
whether it’s a sense of community or a sense of
E W: [Glossier’s] only [permanent] retail is our
showroom in New York on the sixth floor of our
office building. It’s about 1,100 square feet. Last
I checked, it did more sales per square foot than
Apple. It sometimes has a thousand women coming up this rickety elevator [over] eight hours on
How do you view partnerships, and do you
worry that they distort the core brand?
T W: I’d partner with Emily!
E W: We believe in the power of the individual.
And if you have many [individuals] who are
electing your brand, who are excited about it and
talking about it, then that is the equivalent of 10
Kardashians. So while it gives us great joy that
Kim Instagrammed our Body Hero wash, we get
much more excited, frankly, in seeing the power
of the individual multiply and magnify. We see
that as our partnerships.
JR: We have built [Away] off the shoulders of
other brands we respect. There’s such a wide
group of people who travel and who we’re trying to reach. So we look at different verticals,
look for the best brands in those industries, and
then partner with them to reach people that we
wouldn’t have otherwise. I think a very big part
of our customer base right now has heard about
us through a partnership.
N J: As we’ve tried to connect people to real food,
we’ve realized that there is this incredible opportunity to use different ways to [reach] them.
Every year, we do a couple of collaborations and
partnerships that, to Jen’s point, help us tell a
different part of our story and talk to a different group of folks. We’ve worked with everyone
from Kendrick Lamar to great chefs like Dan
Barber and David Chang. It’s also a way for us to
continue to have fun with the brand and keep
In this political climate, are there potential
customers that you just don’t care about, who
you feel like it’s okay to reject or not address?
T W: One of our most-liked Instagram posts was
of Colin Kaepernick kneeling. We didn’t even feel
like we were taking a risk [by posting it]. It was
just like, This is a great photo and it represents
something that is core to who we are. We leaned
into it specifically because that’s expected from
our customers. They’re talking about it, so why
should we shy away from it?
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