Over here, we’d like to think that we know a thing or two about the landscape of sportswear. In reality, we’ve only scraped the foundation of things as lowly consumers who possess a minute knowledge of product. That’s not to say that we aren’t studious enough to ascertain the stories behind apparel and the designers who craft them.
So set the scene: We’ve got the whole squad riding filthy in Beaverton with Nike gear stacked to the ceiling of our vehicles. But what makes the visit to Nike Headquarters special is how we managed to fiddle our way into an interview with the designer formerly known as brand director of the Jordan division, Mr. Gemo Wong. Likely a name that you’re not entirely familiar with. Likely someone who you know little to nothing about. Us either, if it hadn’t been for those on-another-echelon masterminds who used to run the defunct-for-the-time-being, Inquiring Mind Magazine. Though his name may not immediately ring a bell, I’m sure the brands Enyce, Phat Farm, Girbaud and Sean John do. Late 90’s to early 2000’s, Gemo was at the helm, subsequently running operations as either Design Director or Senior Designer for each of those heavy hitting urban labels.
Our concern on this trip to Nike World Campus was to re-introduce the designer currently known as Lead Design hand at Nike Sportswear. If you scour the inter-web there really is zero information on Gemo, other than a Linkedin account, a 1-minute clip on Youtube and remnants of his Inqmnd feature on Flickr. He’s as privately self-contained in person as he seems to be on paper. For the short time we were able to spend with Gemo, he remained reserved and stoic, unready to divulge his every secret but revealing if you asked the right questions.
As a young Filipino-Chinese boy growing up in sparsely populated Cairo, Illinois, it was the revelation of the Air Jordan III that catalyzed his intrigue for Michael and the brand behind him. Fast-forward past a stint at the Art Institute of Chicago and he’s smack dab in the midst of NYC’s hey-day in urban fashion. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Diddy and Russell Simmons obviously had its advantages and it served as a launchpad into getting his shot with the brand he aligned himself with at an early age. Nearly 8 years removed from the fast-pace and flashy beginnings in the Big Apple, now Gemo is quite comfortable near the top of the creative totem at Nike, Inc. From managing the reproduction of Nike’s iconic sneakers; to adapting the current scope of their footwear & apparel and also working on special projects with the likes of a Kanye West – to us, he is a leader in a culture that we so anxiously want to uncover for those as curious as we are.
Humble enough to welcome us on a deserted Sunday at the campus, we can’t express enough, the gratitude we have for being allowed to tour a facility that many only dream of entering. And not only that, allowing us the time to pick the brain of an unsung hero in our eyes. So if you will, follow us down 1 Bowerman Drive and have a good look at our conversation with Lead Man On Campus himself.
foreword + interview by Justin Lintag
stills by Kenn Navarra, Mario Soriano, Androne Ravalo
film by Mario & Marlon Soriano