“We were travelling around the world looking at swimwear, and we saw this under-served market,” Moore explains of the starting block behind Nike’s Victory Swim Collection. “I’ve worked at Nike for 30 years and my focus has always been on how can we promote women in sport. For me, this was one of those breakthrough moments. Swimming is a sport which you can do your entire life, and hearing stories of women who had to stop at 13 or 14, or women who had to sit out because they don’t have the appropriate thing to wear – that is what touched my heart and made me think ‘let’s do this’.”
For Nike, the risk is paying off – the brand launched its first Nike Pro hijab in 2017 to acclaim – but the learning curve is continuing, especially with this latest collection. “Our greatest challenge was getting over our preconceived ideas,” explains Moore. “We thought, at first, that the product could be more like a body-fitting swimsuit for the water, which was wrong, really wrong.” Trials have been paramount to the brand’s success, but above all, listening to women – which started by putting an all-female team of 25 in place – has proved invaluable.
“We asked: how do we make it functional, innovative, beautiful? How do you get that perfect triad of all those things? It was a big learning curve,” explains Moore of the design process which involved travelling to various countries to speak to women. “Initially we really focused on a very small demographic: the Muslim demographic. But, after we started to reach out to others, we found many people who also wanted coverage, too. And to see that growth, that opportunity was very exciting, interesting and diverse.” The result? An innovative collection comprising a full-coverage swimsuit (top and trousers for £500) with separates: a tunic (£65), leggings (£55) and a hijab (£32). But, more importantly, women from all backgrounds and ethnicities have found comfort – whether that is for running, swimming or hitting the gym – in the line that took 18 months to make.
The team used innovative techniques and materials to bring the collection together. Building on the brand’s hijab, the main focus was on fabrication. “Firstly, we thought about what competitive swimwear is made from – like Olympic level. That led us to work with nylon. From there, we started to think about form, and how the consumer and athlete engages with it. We knew support was critical because we didn’t want two to three layers or two to three bras, we wanted one piece,” Moore says. “Most of the women that we met had long hair, so we thought how do we keep that contained? Our goal was to make the innovation simple.”
Simplicity is the key to the collection’s success. For example, “the zip in the back, and the adjustable bra,” shares Moore. “The quick-dry fabric, that means when you’re sitting by the side of the pool you’re not sitting in a swamp.”
But apart from these ingenious small details, it’s how the pieces make you feel as a woman. “You feel proud in it. You don’t feel any less than a pro-athlete. That’s what we wanted women to feel like. So, the emotional side of the design was just as important for us as the innovation. There are lots of swim-based solutions that don’t make women feel great. We wanted this solution to make women feel proud to wear it, and feel proud to play sport, too.”
The Nike Victory Swim Collection reaches stores on 1 February 2020, available to buy from Nike London, Selfridges and Nike.com. Prices start from £32.