From Lululemon to Crocs to Everlane, 2021’s Top Exec Hires Have One Big Thing in Common: They All Come From Nike

The beginning of a new year always brings a fresh wave of top executive moves — and there’s a notable 2021 trend emerging on the hiring front.

In the last few weeks, at least four fashion and footwear firms, including Crocs, Lululemon, Columbia and Everlane, have tapped current or former Nike execs for major roles.

A few years ago, Crocs would never have been mentioned in the same sentence as the Swoosh. On Monday, the same day Crocs tapped 16-year Nike veteran Emma Minto as SVP and general manager, the two brands were talked about as direct rivals after Nike unveiled its Nike Go FlyEase hands-free adaptive shoe.

“Anyone paying attention knows that Crocs’ brand and business have never been stronger, and there’s plenty of room for continued growth,” Minto said in a statement about her arrival at the clog maker, FN’s 2020 Brand of the Year.

After leaving Nike last year, Minto — who was most recently VP and general manager of Nike Women’s in North America and a former VP of Nike Direct Global Retail Operations — will oversee all operations for Crocs’ Americas region.

Blanca Gonzales, Lululemon, Nike
Longtime Nike exec Blanca Gonzalez is now Lululemon’s head merchant.
CREDIT: photo by Allison Michael Orenste

Like Crocs, Lululemon is firing on all cylinders — and the fitness brand directly competes with Nike in several categories. Yesterday, Blanca Gonzalez began work as Lululemon’s head merchant, SVP, global merchandising after a 20-year run at Nike. Lululemon is rapidly building its executive team as it expands internationally and tackles new product categories, including shoes. Last year, it tapped another longtime Nike exec, Nikki Neuburger, as the company’s chief brand officer.

In yet another big move yesterday, Everlane tapped Sophie Bambuck, who was most recently Nike’s global vice president of brand marketing for Nike Sportswear, as its first chief marketing officer. The direct-to-consumer phenom, founded in 2011, quickly amassed a loyal fan base — thanks to its millennial and Gen Z-friendly strategy of offering ethically-produced essentials. But more recently, the company encountered culture and transparency issues — so Everlane will look to Bambuck to help refine messaging at a critical juncture.

While Nike has long been known for its marketing, operations and merchandising expertise, it now stands out for its digital and tech prowess too. Last week, Columbia Sportswear Co. tapped Skip Potter, formerly chief technology officer at Nike, to assume its newly-created role of EVP, chief digital information officer. Potter, who left Nike last year, will assume the role effective April 1. 

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