As far as post-pandemic make-up trips go, Portland, Oregon, wasn't necessarily number one on my hitlist. But as it turns out, there's a good reason why the city is making so much noise. Aside from its incredible thrift shopping culture, remarkable eating and dining venues, or the fact that it happens to be home to the world's largest independent book store (more on this later), Portland – and more specifically the city of Beaverton – is bustling with innovations for her*. As for who is leading the charge, the formidable 'Swoosh' is a dead giveaway.
It's no secret that Nike has long been at the forefront when it comes to innovation, new technologies and most importantly, designing for her* needs. In fact, they obsess over it. So, when the opportunity to visit the brand's headquarters presented itself – uniting creatives, thought leaders, changemakers and innovators from all across the world – there was no question that RUSSH had to be in the room where it was happening. The result? A week of inspiring conversations, unbelievable innovation, a surprise visit from Megan Thee Stallion (yes, you read that correctly), and a final breakfast of Cane's fried chicken that had me dreaming the whole way home.
Here's what went down in Portland.
A noticeable change in temperature, I was actually quite excited to pull out my winter gear for this trip. Though the itinerary was set, I wanted to make sure my suitcase was a versatile mix of comfort but also staple pieces that felt intrinsic to my style to mix and match. Like any serial over-packer, I was more than prepared, but what I didn't expect was to arrive to a clothing rack of incredible Nike pieces in my room, curated by the remarkable Shiona Turini.
There was a 'look' for every situation – from iconic staple workout pieces (honourable mention to the Zenvy tights), to a velour tracksuit set that could undeniably take me from day to night. The best part was visiting Nike's official styling suite for the week, where Turini gave us advice on how to style the pieces, as well as the opportunity to change or swap out our looks to ensure the pieces felt 100 per cent 'us'. My favourite pair of sneakers during the trip were undoubtedly my new Vomero's, after struggling for way too long to find them in my size here in Australia!
INSIDE NIKE HQ
It will come as no surprise that Nike HQ is big. At over two million square feet and comprising of 75 different buildings, it's easy to see why people say the place has its own postcode. The itinerary for the week was action packed – an exciting mix of panel discussions and conversations, new product launches and insight into the technology that's guiding the way. One thing that is certain from the beginning, is that in 2023, her* is Nike's biggest collaborator. An opening conversation between instructor and athlete Tunde Oyeneyin and Megan Bartlett, founder of the Centre for Healing & Justice Through Sport set the tone for the week ahead – encouraging us to reconsider the transformative role that sport and movement play in people's lives, particularly in relation to the female experience.
Speaking with Oyeneyin later in the day, she emphasised the importance of emotional release through exercise, explaining that she often encourages the people who take her classes to think about fitness beyond the physical. "It's actually about much more than the workout. Exercise can be an opportunity for people to surrender, and I don't want that to be confused with giving up, because that's not what it means at all. It can look like many different things at any point in your life, but the main takeaway is that it offers a sense of reprieve, and one thing that we know for certain is that there are a lot of barriers that can get in the way of that release, particularly for girls and women."
It's these exact barriers that the brand is aiming to dismantle in 2023, and during the week at Nike WHQ, we were lucky to get an exclusive look into how. One of the most exciting innovations from the week was a first look at Nike's first leak protection technology, incorporated in some of the brand's most popular existing garments to give those who menstruate additional support while they exercise. It's a comfort that many of us who had the privilege to participate in sport growing up would have dreamed of, and if you want to see the garments in action, you'll only have to tune in to the FIFA Women's World Cup later this year, where Nike's 13 federation partners will be sporting the shorts on the pitch underneath their kit.
It's fair to say the week was off to a good start, but what else did Nike have on its innovation roster?
The new Nike Motiva, designed by the Nike Research Lab. is set to reshape our attitudes towards running, offering a new sneaker silhouette that actually makes movement enjoyable – taking away much of the discomfort and fear that stops us from going in the first place. Elsewhere, your favourite sports bras and tights are being reimagined to accomodate all experiences, from maternity needs, to Plus apparel and more conservative offerings too; all guided using data from over 68,000 bodies across a range of needs and priorities.
One of the things that surprised me the most about Portland was the incredible offering of restaurants and food stops. Just outside our hotel was a bustling selection of food trucks that had lines every morning, and who could forget the unbelievable bao bun hamburger served at Han Oak (undoubtedly one of the most delicious meals I've eaten in a long time). But what is a trip to the USA without a new fast food discovery? Raising Cane's had been on my bucketlist since basically the beginning of the pandemic (thanks to TikTok), and when I found out there was an outpost just a minute from the hotel, I knew it had to be fate.
All I can say is that I am still thinking about the meal to this day. If someone could please also find the recipe for the Cane's sauce, I will be forever indebted. Bathe me in it ASAP.
While navigating the Nike HQ campus was a sightseeing expedition in itself, I was grateful to grab a few hours on the first day of our visit to explore some of the unmissable destinations in the city. First stop on the list was of course Buffalo Exchange for a lesson in thrift shopping away from the miserable rain outside. But the true writer in me couldn't resist the iconic Powell's signage, and before long I was deep in the crevices of the world's largest independent book store. I don't think there was a genre that the store didn't have, and truthfully, if time allowed for it, I could have spent an entire afternoon discovering new authors and genres. An absolute highlight if you are ever in the city.
And finally, if you're in search of a moment of relaxation about the city streets, make sure to book yourself in for a treat experience at Knox Springs. We were lucky enough to take a challenging but inspiring yoga class, which was followed by access to the various springs and saunas. The perfect way to centre yourself after a long flight.