SCALA recently took a field trip to the Nike fabric library. Just as in the libraries we’re all accustomed to, the Nike library houses rows of shelves with multicolored contents; in this library, though, the cases contain fabric swatches on hangers. Other sections hold notions – drawers filled with zipper pulls, grommets and rings.
The library collects fabric samples (tens of thousands of them) from Nike’s vendors, and makes them available to the apparel designers. Swatches are labeled with identifying characteristics, tagged according to price, and sorted by vendor location (to facilitate sourcing in the same area as production). As with books, the color of a swatch doesn’t matter at all in its classification — the library likes to have one dark and one light sample of a fabric, but color isn’t a defining characteristic for the library’s purposes. Ann Desimone, the library manager, weeds the collection from time to time, but she maintains a historical card file of every type of fabric that has passed through the library.
Ms. Desimone also makes two “collection development” trips to Paris each year for fabric shows, and puts together exhibits for Nike designers on coming trends. It’s an impressive system for collecting and organizing the fabric in the Nike world!