Monday, October 17, 2005

Adidas designer translates fashion, makeup and decor into sportswear

The Oregonian

Some people read tea leaves. Melissa Heyworth reads Metropolitan Home.

Heyworth, a color and trend manager for Adidas-Salomon AG, is one of about seven people at Adidas' campus in Portland responsible for divining the colors, looks and features that will be popular with consumers wanting to buy sneakers 18 months or more down the road.

Catering to consumers' fashion sensibilities has become even more important in the athletic footwear and apparel industry as customers increasingly buy sneakers for style as well as sport.

"It's a beautiful opportunity to translate and interpret things you see" into new products, she said. "You're thinking what do you do to give a product character."

Guessing consumers' taste in sportswear means looking at such seemingly unrelated products as automobiles, home decorations and cosmetics. She rips out pages from fashion, architectural, home-decor and other magazines; prowls car showrooms, fashion shows and art exhibits around the world; and reads up on social issues such as environmental conservation to get a pulse on consumer psychology.

She then compiles her research and works with others in Portland and at Adidas' headquarters in Germany to help determine the color palette for upcoming products as well as to brainstorm with designers on turning concepts and psychology into sneakers and clothes.

For example, Heyworth said, motorcycle wear was taking center stage at fashion shows more than a year ago. That research resulted in the design and development of a boot for women, with quilting, imitation carbon-fiber elements and other designs reminiscent of motorcycling. The Feroza Motorcycle boot for women is scheduled to hit store shelves this season.

Even consumers' interest in environmental issues can play a part in designing products, she said, leading to shoes with textured leather resembling wood grain.

So what's on tap this spring? Orange, said her co-worker, color design manager Kelley Collins. The color already is on cars and washing machines and soon will be on running shoes.

Personally, Heyworth doesn't feel the need to be three steps ahead of Portland fashion. At an interview last week, she wore the most timeless of colors.

"I feel comfortable in black," she said.

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