We had the pleasure of popping by Beaverton to the Nike HQ to visit and interview Ryan Noon and check out the Blue Ribbon Design Studio. Ryan runs the space, is a Trend Manager and ex Print, Pattern and Apparel Designer. His side projects are super fun and we loved hearing about his career journey with Nike.
F) Earliest creative memory and what lead you into design?
R) I grew up in a family that were very creative but not traditionally. My Dad’s side of the family are all boat builders, so I grew up in wood shops and my grandfather was a woodworker and two of my uncles are wooden boat builders. Early on I wanted to be an architect. Two of my other aunts (my Dad has eight brothers and sisters) both worked in fashion; one in pattern making and one in colour designer. I use to go to New York in the summers and I would study at Parson’s, doing a drawing class, then I would work with my aunt in fashion in the afternoon.
I was also really into Björk around that time Homogenic was released and Alexander McQueen did the album cover and the Art Direction and I wanted to know who Alexander McQueen was! He was making music videos for her and also his runway collection. The early shows were so fantastic! The catwalks were raining and there were wolves as accessories! I researched him and found out that he and many other designers I admired studied at Central St. Martins.
F) How old were you when you were doing that?
R) Around 13 (years old).
F) And where did you study?
R) I studied at Central St. Martins in London for Fashion Design with Print focus. I was going to go to school in New York, but I applied to Central St. Martins and didn’t tell my parents and then I got in! The next weekend my whole family took a plane to England and the decision was made that I should go and that’s how I ended up there.
F) How long was the course?
R) I did a one year foundation and then I took a year off and came back and designed lingerie for a year. Then I went back and did 4 more years including 1 year in industry, which I completed in Copenhagen, where I worked for Henrik Vibskov. He was also from St. Martins, 3 or 4 years before me and his shows are more art installation than catwalk.
F) Did you love the creativity in Copenhagen?
R) Yeah, it is similar to Portland in a way, a different speed of people. The quality of life is so good. I also ended up working for Alexander McQueen. It was nuts – I was one of about 40 design assists, I was lucky I got a really good gig doing digital prints, but it was crazy – you worked long days, 8am until 11, midnight, 1am every single night six days a week. It was very intense and everyday was different.
F) Do you think your Scandinavian time has effected your design work?
R) Yes totally, I’m addicted, I go to Iceland 3 or 4 times a year now!
F) What was your plan for when you graduated and how did it actually transpire?
R) I didn’t have a plan actually, I’m thinking back. At St. Martin’s it’s all about the final collection. Nike sponsored my final collection to do shoes, which was great. And when I was finished (with school) Nike asked me to come and work at NikeiD, their custom shoe range. So I ended up working in the studio in London where all the celebrities go and you book a custom appointment and design custom shoes.
F) How did the Nike sponsorship come about?
R) I just dug through my connections to someone that knew someone who knew someone. I just asked and really worked for it.
F) Who are some of the celebrities you worked with?
R) Lebron James, a couple of times and Shaggy along with a lot of football players. It’s really cool because you get to sit down with them one-on-one and learn about their taste and what they like.
F) So where did that lead to?
R) I ended up doing my own collection in London when I was there under my own name and showed it during fashion week. I was also doing some teaching and working at Nike part-time.
F) How old where you?
R) I guess I was about 24 and then I came back, my visa ran out and I couldn’t stay in England any longer. But it was a good move, I was done in the UK I just didn’t realise it at the time. I was ready for a change. I went back to the States, hung out in Berkeley, California for a little while, then took my bike out here (west to Portland) and it just felt really good. Then I started Women’s Training here (at Nike in Portland) doing prints and apparel design. I was at Women’s Training for about two and a half years, then they asked me to go to Tennis to do graphic design.
F) What was the biggest difference between Tennis and the Women’s Apparel?
R) Working with athletes in Tennis was great, as all these athletes have their own collection. You work with them one-on-one, you get to know them and design through them and for them. Getting to go to all of the tennis tournaments too was fantastic. I got to go to Wimbledon and ended up writing a research book about it. Tennis is so rich in history, all these old rules and stories, it has such personality. Where as Women’s Training in a sense is a relatively new thing, as a sport so its exciting to shape what it is going to become. It was really interesting doing both.
F) What have been some of your favourite projects at Nike?
R) I loved this project (Blue Ribbon Studio), it’s been so much fun. It’s something new, we have never done this before. It’s an experience, it’s a service, it’s interacting with people.
Another one of my favourites was ‘The Tight of the Moment’, it was a project I started in my first week, I didn’t have a lot to start on at the time as we were between seasons. I was in London, I didn’t read blogs (and still really don’t) and don’t use the internet much, I get my inspiration from just looking, seeing what people on the street are wearing. I started drawing those ideas, and my creative director was like, ‘Wow, this makes so much sense’. That was cool because it was a project that was not briefed by the business or a need in the market, it was more acting on an idea that makes sense and I had pretty much complete freedom to go an make prints and I think ultimately it has really helped change how we look at prints at Nike.
F) What advice would you give your teenage self?
R) To myself I would say chill out a little bit, learn to relax and be myself. For me when I am happy and relaxed I make the best work.
F) Good advice! I think a lot of students struggle with that, they try to please the lecturer, or be something that other people what them to be. Where as if you have a real strong sense of self you are better than everyone else, because you are nailing it, instead of trying to fit in.
R) Exactly! Thats the thing. When I am interviewing people here, everyone knows Illustrator and they all know flat drawing, but I want to know what’s so special about you?
F) Amazing, thank you Ryan it’s been a pleasure.
R) You’re welcome, happy you could stop by!