When she was 10, Lisa Collier discovered — in a book report — the principles that helped two-time Heisman Trophy-winning running back Archie Griffin find success. Collier was inspired by his Three Ds — Desire, Determination and Dedication — so much so that she kept them written in her wallet.
Today, the fashion industry veteran — whose career includes decade-plus runs at Limited Brands andadmitted she continues to apply those same principles in her role as chief product officer at Under Armour.
Just over two years in, Collier’s influence on the athletic giant is already apparent, and can be seen most prominently in its women’s business — specifically, its commitment to create products for women from the ground up, with women on the team leading the way.
From a footwear perspective, Under Armour has made headlines during her tenure with acclaimed performance product made only for women, including the UA Flow Breakthru 2 basketball shoe that debuted in October 2021. More recently, the brand revealed the UA Flow Synchronicity, a road-ready running shoe built on a women’s last.
Here, Collier offers a look to FN into what drives her to succeed and how she’s shaping the Under Armour women’s business.
How would you describe your experience in footwear and fashion, which are industries that are largely male-dominant?
“I never once felt like there was a glass ceiling or that I couldn’t do what I set out to do or that I couldn’t get [where I wanted to be] because I was competing with a man in the space. I felt like hard work, determination and showing up always prevailed and allowed me to advance in my career. When I was a kid with my two other brothers, I used to think, ‘Why couldn’t I do anything that they can do?’ I look back at it now and I wanted to play football and I couldn’t. Now, I look at the opportunities that are out there for women and girls and us starting to shift that.”
What gave you the confidence that you would be able to overcome longstanding gender inequalities?
“I always had encouragement from my parents that I could do anything I put my mind to, and along the way I had fantastic mentors — many of them female leaders in the fashion industry — that gave me the encouragement, that view that it was possible. The combination of those things helped support where I wanted to go with what I wanted to do.”
Who are some of your mentors?
“One who I am very close with today is Cheryl Turpin, who was a CEO and president at a couple Limited divisions and later went on to sit on the board at Foot Locker and Warnaco Group. She was someone who I saw rise and lead, and also have balance with a family and husband.”
What advice would you give young women who are looking to break into footwear and fashion?
“Go for your passion. Hard work, putting your hand up to do things that aren’t normally in your job description, stretching yourself and getting experiences and exposure are ways to get after what you want to do.”
How would you describe the shift in Under Armour’s approach to creating footwear for women since your arrival in April 2020?
“Creation takes some time, and the team was very passionate about this work before I got completely engaged. We believe that everyone has the right to engage in sport and that women were challenged with footwear, most likely suffering more pain than men. The team that was pulled together, [sportstyle footwear director] Katie [Lau] being one of them, [senior director of biomechanics and innovation] Helen Woo being another, were super passionate about solving problems for her and build shoes that allow her to compete at her best. One of the things I’ve always been passionate about is it’s not about shrink it and pink it. It is about women deserve to have product that is designed exclusively for them. We need to understand the female needs, whether it be in footwear or apparel, and serve that consumer, that athlete, that focused performer to deliver against their needs to be the best they can be — and look their best. It’s a combination of performance and style that is always important when serving our athletes.”
How would you like to see the Under Armour women’s apparel and footwear business grow? What are your goals?
“We have definitely seen positive momentum in the last couple of years in our women’s business in total, however it’s not anywhere near where we believe the opportunity is. We believe we can grow through serving our team sports athletes by providing solutions they didn’t know they needed and can’t live without, whether that’s a running shoe for her, a soccer boot for her or a football cleat for her. It’s understanding the needs of the team sport athlete to help them perform at their best and then taking that into the train and run space where we’re servicing them and helping them prepare for their journey to compete. For us, it is about that in-depth knowledge of what they need and then providing the solutions, but them making them look and feel great because we know that’s an important part of the psyche for athletes to perform their best. They have to look great and feel great while they wear our product.”
What role did you play in advancing the Breakthru basketball shoe franchise?
“I was relatively new to leading the organization when the first Hovr Breakthru came out [in September 2020], but we then took the incredible technology of our Flow platform and brought it into Breakthru to move it forward. It was excellent with the Hovr technology, but with the latest iteration we used Flow technology based on our findings from our Curry 8 and 9 and the performance on court we were able to provide Steph [Curry]. We felt like it was an opportunity to bring that to her in a shoe that was built for her.”
What has the early feedback been on the UA Flow Synchronicity?
“We test our products with athletes and consumers, and we got super positive feedback about the feel on the foot and the difference in how that shoe felt from wearing [one made with] a men’s last. It has inspired us about what is possible. Breakthru, from a women’s perspective, was our first initial dipping our toe into the women’s-exclusive fit. Flow Synchronicity is taking it to the next level. [Flow Synchronicity] gave us the confidence to continue to develop product for her and gave us an understanding of why it’s important for us to make product to help her perform at her best.”
How are you empowering emerging designers and product developers at Under Armour?
“We want to give them the opportunity to explore, and sometimes that comes through projects or passions they have. Quite often, I get young designers coming to me wanting to explore a passion product. It’s really about giving them the runway or the opportunity to do that. A great example on the women’s side was led by Katie Lau and Helen Woo and team, who said, ‘We want to do [footwear for women], we want to take this on.’ Also, [UA’s designers and product developers] do it with culturally-relevant products, spending time with our team resource groups, our TRGs, and understanding whether it’s our Black teammate community or our LGBTQ teammate community and then creating projects that balance our DEI principles and strategy. It all comes through the passion of our teams and giving them the latitude to explore is how we’re empowering them.”