A Rallying Cry for Creativity


Newness is rooted in the active outdoor and  performance textile industry. However, in recent years, this core pursuit of innovation has shifted gears to accommodate a contemporary style of business that has stalled the role of creatives in favor of fueling rapid growth. Here, three professionals on the front lines of design and product development express the need to embrace creative leadership.

Michelle Rose

Founder, Struktur Society

“Our industry is at an inflection point. Innovation, inspiration, and risk-taking are overshadowed by a rapidly changing world that has been turned on its head by technology, climate change, and COVID, resulting in systems that we have relied on since the industrial era are now outdated. Transformative times call for creativity, new perspectives and fresh ideas along with new processes that rely on collaboration, flexibility and imagination – all things creative minds thrive on.

In order for that to happen, we must understand the creative mindset as a bridge to innovation, and we need to rethink the C-Suite roles and bring creativity to a numbers-heavy, corner office approach.

A recent study conducted by brand strategy firm Born Ugly states that 37 percent of respondents cited lack of innovation and creative thinking as the top internal barrier to overcoming current business challenges across companies.

If we want to stir up innovation, we need to bring creatives to the decision-making table. Creatives have a natural mindset for innovation. Creatives ask the tough questions rather than accepting the status quo. With their independent mindset, creatives have the capacity to rise above management level to become visionary leaders”.

Carly Mick

Director,  University of Oregon Sports Product Design Program

“I have been in the innovation space for 15 years, and the C-suite mindset I’ve experienced during the last few years has mandated cuts and calls for re-organizations that reflect innovation not taken seriously. Funding for innovation is cyclical, usually in two-year year time periods. Innovation for me has been in response to these financial cycles with a notable decline in investment in the innovation space.

“What innovation has taught me is to be flexible to being available to new ideas.”

Having just recently taken on the role of director at University of Oregon Sports Product Design, Wick explains that the program places an emphasis on connection, communication and community.

“Connecting with people within and outside the program forms a network that brings innovation. Relationships built over time serve as a valuable tool within the innovation space. Students are encouraged to create a closely bonded cohort as they move through the program, and beyond into their careers, as this opens up opportunities over time.

Leadership needs to empower employees to do what’s possible. And provide a level of stability that allows for innovation. Corporate decision makers should encourage the same level of creativity and  innovation in their approach to business as they ask innovators to approach their product.”

Elizabeth LeMay

Founder, Studio317

“As a designer, my approach to innovation is to constantly seek out new ideas and solutions that can either solve an immediate problem, fill a gap in the product market or make an existing product better or more efficient. I believe in thinking outside the box and pushing the boundaries of what is possible to create unique products. Innovation can be applied to product, processes or technology.

In today’s rapidly changing and highly competitive world, businesses and organizations face numerous challenges and uncertainties. Creative leadership is essential in navigating these challenges and finding innovative solutions that enable organizations to adapt, innovate, and thrive. It encourages forward-thinking, empowers individuals, and drives positive change. By encouraging and fostering creativity within a team, leaders can promote out-of-the-box thinking, which is crucial for addressing complex problems and staying ahead of the competition.  

Additionally, creative leadership is vital for adapting to the ever-evolving landscape of our industry. As new technologies emerge and reshape industries, leaders need to be open to change and embrace innovation. They must foster a culture of learning and exploration, encouraging their teams to experiment with new tools and methods.