Nike is continuing to change the game with its Nike Yardrunners campaign, a component of its impact on the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) community through purpose-driven products, storytelling, recruitment, and investments.
Nike Yardrunners was established in 2020, giving the brand a chance to collaborate with HBCU trailblazers and community creatives to produce motivational storytelling and acts of generosity with and for the community.
Nike Yardrunners’ newest iteration is centered on HBCU alums who are creating a legacy that will motivate younger generations. One of the Yardrunners is Heather Haynes, who designed the sneaker for her alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, where she also was selected into the inaugural class of the Clark Atlanta University 40 under 40 Young Alumni achievement awards.
Speaking with The SOURCE, Heather Haynes spoke about joining the HBCU campaign, creating on behalf of Clark Atlanta, and more.
The SOURCE: How did you feel when you found out you were included in the Nike Yardrunner HBCU Campaign?
Heather Haynes: I was excited to be in my first Nike campaign! I mean, who wouldn’t be!? Nike is a huge part of the culture, so being able to represent their brand with a campaign that’s impactful means the world to me.
You are a member of the inaugural class of Clark Atlanta University’s 40 under 40 Young Alumni Achievement awards. What does it mean for you to be etched in the history of your university?
This year has been a monumental one for so many reasons. I got married this year, became a sneaker designer, and received the 40 under 40 awards from Clark Atlanta. It feels like a full-circle moment all around. I met my husband at CAU, and my love for fashion grew at CAU, so to commemorate all of these things all at once feels incredible. I’m excited to be of the Clark Atlanta University legends.
Did you feel pressure to design a product that represented your school?
I honestly didn’t feel pressure. I was excited. I’m a creative person, so when it comes to design or style, I always have an idea in mind, and I try my best to trust my idea and not get distracted by too many opinions. I only consulted my husband about the design since he went to CAU as well, and his friend Spence who just happened to be at our house when I was sketching my design. It was cool to get an outside perspective of someone who didn’t attend CAU as well. He loved the design just as a sneakerhead.
What was your creative process when heading into the creation of the sneaker?
My creative process was being intentional first and creative second. I wanted sneakers to represent the school so that students and alumni would take great pride in having a sneaker that was made for them. Once I had all of the school elements outlined, from the colors, the mascot, the motto, etc., the next step was finding placement on the dunk low silhouette that made sense for the overall design. I used crayons and a printout of the dunk low silhouette to showcase my design idea.
Recently there has been an outpour of support toward HBCUs; in what other ways could the general public impact schools like Clark?
After the Yardrunners campaign, a lot of other brands decided to pay homage to HBCUs as well, which is great. The more visibility, the better. Hopefully, the general public will be inspired to do what they can to educate more folks, especially the youth, about the importance of HBCUs. I would like more people to contribute their mentorship to HBCU students.
The university’s motto of “Find a Way or Make One” is included on the sneaker. What moment in your journey does that motto echo in your life?
This is my favorite question because I truly live my life by this motto. My favorite example is when I first moved to NYC, my dream was to work for J.Cole. So I attended his first Dollar and a Dream concert for his debut studio album Cole World: The Sideline Story, and I purchased his album before they released to the public a few days later. I went home and read the album credits and thank yous and wrote down the names of all the folks that worked on the album and started to google them to find their emails; instead, I found their Twitter profiles and started tweeting them, “I will intern for free” a few days later I was headed into the Columbia Records office for an interview. I found out that I needed to be in school and get college credit to get an internship, so I went home and photoshopped an admissions letter for a graduate program. A few days later, I landed a job being an Urban radio promotions intern, and the rest was history.