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From Artist-Athlete to Adidas

While 2014 B.F.A. textile design alumna Andrea Nieto was an Academy of Art University student, her talent stood out and her high caliber work earned her numerous awards, such as Bentley Mills Portfolio Cash Award for Interior, Pointcarre Software Prize for Textile Design and the RSA U.S. Student Design Awards.

Her enthusiasm for fashion also showed in her Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2014 collection. She collaborated with Frank Tsai, M.F.A fashion design, on a menswear collection which was inspired by the mood and emotion of an international photography collection Beauty in Decay, as well as personal struggle, raw emotion and the different stages of the healing process.

At the same time that Nieto was building her fashion knowledge as an undergraduate, she was also a star golfer on the women’s golf team.

Now a year after graduating from the School of Fashion, Nieto has found where her two passions - fashion and sports - intersect. We caught up with the designer to hear about her job at Adidas, how her time in the School of Fashion and on the golf team prepared her for the work world and what’s next for her.

 

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Andrea Nieto. Courtesy of Andrea Nieto.

Tell us about what you have been doing since graduation.

I graduated from AAU and right away started my internship at Adidas with the innovation team. The internship lasted six months, and at the end, they offered me a full time position. I still can’t believe I was given this opportunity and right now I’m learning so much by working with our engineering and biomechanics not to mention designers and developers that have years of knowledge of working in the sport industry. This opportunity has been completely amazing and I’m enjoying every day of this new challenge.

 

Last year you joined the design team at Adidas. What was the process like for getting the job? Did you actively seek out the position or did they contact you?

 This happened all so fast and in a crazy way. I met Andy Shearer, Senior Design Recruiter at Adidas years ago after my first runway show in San Francisco. A year after that show, Andy inquired about me and we got back in contact. I forwarded him my latest portfolio and within a couple of days I got an offer to start a six-month internship at Adidas - Portland.

 

What drew you to Adidas?

While designing at school and being part of an athletic team, you start to think about how you could make your gear better and what you could improve. I have always loved sports and design; those are my two passions. When that opportunity happened, I didn’t even have to think twice; I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I also grew up wearing red Adidas shoes with white stripes and I probably owned three pairs of the same shoe.

 

What is an average day like for you at Adidas?

There are no average days! Every day is literally different. There’s sketching involved, emails, meetings, sample making, traveling, working out, designing and collaboration.

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Illustrated lineup of Andrea Nieto’s Fall 2014 NYFW collaborative collection with M.F.A. fashion designer Frank Tsai. Courtesy of Andrea Nieto and Frank Tsai.

Do you have any role models within the company?

Yes, my whole team is composed of really talented and knowledgeable people. I am also always inspired by all the designers and the work that they put up on the design walls.

 

Any funny stories about your time there so far?

Not yet! But stayed tuned.

 

You’re not only a prize-winning designer, but you’re also an accomplished golfer. To many, fashion and sports seem totally opposite, yet you found a way to marry the two with your job at Adidas. Did you set out to find a job in sportswear?

You know, I really think I walked from one end of the spectrum to the complete opposite. In the world of fashion, there’s a lot of freedom and in sports performance, you have to make informed decisions that serve a specific purpose and will help the athlete perform better. However I see that right now fashion and sportswear are merging and waiting to meet in the middle of the spectrum. Not only [do] we want to make great performing gear, but we also want to make it beautiful and desirable. So this is really exciting for me right now.

 

How do you feel your experience as an athlete has impacted your design role at Adidas?

Being an athlete taught me discipline, time management, teamwork and leadership. Golf specifically taught me to be humble, because in golf, one day you can be at the top and the next day you can be at the very bottom and that’s life. The only shot that you can control is the one you are standing on top of because the last one is already in the past and the next one doesn’t exist. Golf taught me to be present and take one day at a time. I’m forever grateful for my coaches, teammates and sport directors giving me the opportunity to be part of the first women’s golf team at ART U.

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A look from Andrea Nieto’s 2013 Graduation collection, made in collaboration with B.F.A. fashion designer Shumpei Okamoto. Photo by Getty Images.

As both a skilled golfer and a talented designer, how did you decide which to pursue as your career? Are you ever tempted to go pro in golf?

Golf is amazing, a great challenge, but I think I would hate the sport if it was my profession in life. I’m extremely happy to be able to follow my two passions right now - sport and design.

 

 What sparked your initial interest in fashion?

 My mother! She would sew all my Halloween costumes and clothes growing up. Also my grandmother taught me to crochet, draw and all sorts of crafts. I guess the passion for making runs in the family.

 

What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to stay in sportswear or are you itching to try your hand at something different?

The challenge right now is so big and I’m learning so much about materials, footwear, biomechanics, sport specific needs, etc., that I only have time and all the passion in the world to get better every day at my job. I’m designing shoes now and I can only picture myself getting better and better at it. I can’t wait to see my first designs come out to the market.

Where do you find inspiration?

The athletes, the sport culture, the athletes’ love for the game and the passion that there is in sport. I am inspired by the world and my passion lately is photography, so I walk around with my camera and snap pictures of shadows, flowers, bridges, textures, colors, people and trends.

 

What advice would you give to current students?

Take different classes from different majors. This really helped me to learn to do things differently from my classmates and to problem solve with [newly] acquired tools.

 

Any fashion icons?

I don’t know if this counts, but I really appreciate and admire Bill Cunningham. I had the opportunity to meet him personally at the YMA-FSF gala last year in January. He rode his bike that night to the Gala event though it was freezing cold.