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Four Nike Design Directors Reportedly Leave in One Month

The so-called Great Resignation came to Nike headquarters last month with at least four design directors leaving the company, according to a report published by Complex Monday.

The reported departures included Sergio Lozano, a more than 30-year veteran of the footwear giant and the man behind the ever-popular Air Max 95 sneaker. All four now-former employees had been at Nike for at least 5 years.

Among the other designers who left the company was senior footwear design director Nate Jobe. A former Adidas employee, Jobe spent four years at Converse, then more than 11 years with the Nike brand, during which his work included collaborating with Virgil Abloh to bring to life his now-iconic collection “The Ten.” Tom Rushbrook spent roughly 11 years at Nike, including most recently as global senior design director for men’s sports style innovation. Chad Knight, director of 3D footwear design, had been at Nike for five-and-a-half years.

“Was hit up by [Complex] about why I, along with several other Nike design leaders, recently left after many years,” Knight wrote on LinkedIn Monday. “Ultimately the influx of MBA’s was preventing the expression and pollination of new ideas. Web3 is clearly the future and I wanted to build that future.”

Knight, who wrote a similar message on Twitter, left Nike for Wilder World, an NFT marketplace that bills itself as “an immersive 5D Metaverse built on Ethereum.” According to an Instagram post from late November, the platform will drop a virtual sneaker from the new head of “cyberwear” soon.

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After years spent securing patents for digital footwear, Nike has made its virtual ambitions clearer in recent months. In late October, it filed a series of trademark applications for “on-line, non-downloadable virtual footwear.” Around the same time, it posted job openings for “virtual material designers,” including one focused on footwear. Last month, it introduced Nikeland, a metaverse mini-world on the popular virtual platform Roblox.

The departures come more than a year after Nike unveiled plans to downsize its labor force in summer 2020. At first, it estimated it would spend between $200 million and $250 million to terminate roughly 500 individuals. In November 2020, it alerted state officials it was expanding the total number of job losses to 700. According to The Oregonian/OregonLive, 200 of the cut jobs were at the company’s on-site childcare center, which closed permanently. The layoffs were expected to conclude by Jan. 8 and only impact employees at the company’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

Nearly a year later, the job market has changed dramatically, with many companies struggling to find employees. Today Nike’s careers site now lists 1,695 open positions—up from 1,363 in June. Of that number, 553 are located in Beaverton—more than 50 are also taking remote candidates. Forty-three are in design.