Activewear All Star and Creative Director—Fashion Design Grad Theola Wong

Activewear All Star and Creative Director—Fashion Design Grad Theola Wong



Theola Wong’s resume reads like a “who’s who” of the world’s top sports and fitness brands. Before her time in the Fashion Design program at Canada’s Top Fashion School, Theola first forayed into the world of design at five years old, when she started making her own Barbie clothes, and it seems that early practice paid off. From Reebok and adidas to Nike, Theola has turned the industry on its head since her graduation from Blanche Macdonald’s Design program. After filling and succeeding in numerous design and director roles in her career, Theola has branched out into Freelance Career based on the missing niche she discovered in the companies she had worked in during the start of her career. Bright, knowledgeable, and so extremely nice, Theola is a force to be reckoned with and the secret weapon behind most of your favourite activewear brands.  

The last time we spoke with Theola, she was the Senior Designer for Nike with her designs spanning the globe and selling out in stores all around the world. Now, this activewear designer is based in Portland, Oregon. After being involved in every aspect of the design process in numerous global brands, she has carved out a niche for herself as a Freelance Creative Director, after gaining massive experience as Nike’s Concept + Style Director. 

nike design studio

While at Nike, I was able to touch every stage of the process. I worked with the creative and brand teams to develop the language of the product, the step-by-step strategy, and narrative to bring the product to market.

“While at Nike, I was able to touch every stage of the process. I worked with the creative and brand teams to develop the language of the product, the step-by-step strategy, and narrative to bring the product to market. The styling process was one that started from the ground up. It was born of the need to build and strengthen connectivity between departments, within design to build a cohesive vision, then across merchandising and brand. 

“The outcome of this was the conception of the Styling Center. Focused specifically on Women’s categories, the goal was to create product that was right for her and not just the idea of athletics through the male lens. I worked with the design teams every step of the way. In 2017, we were able to create a partnership with one of fashion’s most accomplished fashion editors, Camilla Nickerson. We were now able to see the design stories from start to end. The company recognized how valuable the styling center was and eventually utilized it across all categories, including Men’s.”

Illustrations and Designs by Theola Wong

Once the Styling Center was up and running, this Activewear Designer decided it was time to take her new skills on the road and see where else could benefit from her immense knowledge.

“I was essentially working two jobs at Nike in Concept + Styling. My work was invaluable to me, and the experience was amazing but I needed to focus on a work/life balance. I took the skills I’d learned and my understanding of the design process and I’ve been able to do a whole gamut of work over the last two years in my freelance career.”


With PrAna, we were in San Diego. With The North Face we were in the Bay Area, FILA was Hong Kong. I love traveling for projects. Experiencing the ethic and vibe of other cities is so inspiring and you just feel motivated to do good work.

Theola’s freelance portfolio greatness rivals that of her previous resume. Since developing her freelance career, Theola has worked as an Activewear Designer and Creative Director for PrAna, with The North Face setting their vision for all of Fall 2020, alongside FILA resetting the entirety of their Women’s products in Asia, and of course, she’s still brought on to Nike to help coordinate their design teams. As you may expect, this all comes with quite a bit of traveling. 

“With PrAna, we were in San Diego. With The North Face we were in the Bay Area, FILA was Hong Kong and I go between New York and LA often. I love traveling for projects. Experiencing the ethic and vibe of other cities is so inspiring and you just feel motivated to do good work.”

Art Direction and Styling by Theola Wong

Theola’s approach to her work is as unique to her as the vibe of each location she’s visited. As an activewear designer and freelance creative director Theola approaches each job differently, assessing their clients, current market standing, and any other factors in order to build a universe that all creatives can fall into or a north star that all ideas ladder up to. 

“The first step is to listen and then assess to see where the company is at. I like to have visibility to endeavors that didn’t work out, because when trying to understand a company, their successes are just as important as the things that didn’t pan out like anticipated. I need to see the entire picture in order to properly think ‘big picture.’ ”


When trying to understand a company, their successes are just as important as the things that didn’t pan out like anticipated. I need to see the entire picture in order to properly think ‘big picture.’

Despite the enormity of her work and responsibilities, this Activewear Designer’s contracts aren’t always long, serious, or intense. Often, she has projects with brands that are as short as helping to set up a brand’s season styling look and selecting the photography and talent teams to execute the vision. 

Art Direction and Styling by Theola Wong

And though she’s brought on-board to the most sought-after global brands because of her understanding of and expertise in the industry, Theola expresses the importance of teamwork and support staff. 

“I’ve always believed in the importance of teamwork and communication and all the parts working towards a whole. I’ve made this point before when I was last at Blanche Macdonald speaking. Sometimes I come into a team and I’m directing a shoot, sometimes I’m creating a team, sometimes I’m a cog in their inner workings. In any of these situations, it’s so important to bring the team together and find their strengths so that you can delegate when you need to. The reality is that no one is an expert in everything.


It’s so important to bring the team together and find their strengths so that you can delegate when you need to. The reality is that no one is an expert in everything.

“Going into a brand’s house and joining their team is a big deal. It’s so important to me that everyone feels respected and connected so that each member can best be utilized. I want to use their ideas, push them outside of their comfort zones and in the end, create meaningful work that has been contributed to by the whole team in a tight package that is understandable and scalable.”

Art Direction and Styling by Theola Wong

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that word of Theola’s stunning work as an activewear designer precedes her with most of her clients coming from word of mouth and because of the personal connections she maintains. Her secret to success is also the advice she would give blossoming designers looking to get into the industry. 


An openness to learning is so crucial. I’ve learned to not go into anything with expectations. Be hungry, be humble, and work hard.

“An openness to learning is crucial. I’ve learned to not go into anything with expectations. Honestly, a lot of unanticipated opportunities came out of other jobs that I didn’t think would happen. It’s not a huge industry and everyone runs in the same circle if they’re good, so don’t burn your bridges. Be hungry, be humble, and work hard. Insert yourself where you see fit and don’t expect an immediate payback. People recognize great work and it will always pay off. It’s the idea of being a student your whole life. You learn one step and do well, then get a new challenge and rise to the top there too!”

Nike 24×24 Pack, Concept by Theola Wong

 

 



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