By  on September 27, 2007

Almost every day, D.J. van Hameren, global general manager of NikeiD, sits with his colleagues and asks the question, what if? Keeping athletes in mind, he wonders what if a New York Yankees fan could find the perfect pinstripe shoe, or what if a teenager playing soccer could design a shoe that matches his or her team colors.

These questions are at the heart of NikeiD, an innovative division at the activewear giant Nike that carries approximately 100 products. NikeiD footwear, apparel and bags can be customized by the click of a mouse to create something that is unique to each consumer. "We are trying to help athletes perform better," van Hameren said. "By the way, if you have a body, you're an athlete."

The customization process is how a giant brand like Nike can be made personal, said van Hameren.

For instance, a customer can select the base, tip, accent, lace and swoosh colors for a running shoe. The prices are $10 to $15 higher than buying a ready-to-wear sneaker at NikeTown, mainly because of shipping and handling costs, and the shipping process can take up to four weeks. But customers appreciate the opportunity to craft products whenever and wherever they want, he said.

"We are not just selling shoes, we are building a relationship," he noted.

Fans of the line include fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez and tennis star Maria Sharapova.

And the company appears to be betting the concept will thrive on a larger scale because it soon will move its NikeiD studio from Elizabeth Street to the fifth floor of NikeTown in New York. By appointment, customers will have access to a design consultant, who will be able to help create a one-of-a-kind product. Next, NikeiD will make a home in NikeTown in London.

"We've been working on this for almost two years — it's designed to elevate the consumer experience," van Hameren added. "We have to continue to innovate. It's how we connect."

This division thrives, in part, because of a fundamental shift that has taken place with consumers, van Hameren said. "They are more in charge now, so we need to innovate how we connect."But be warned: This process can be addictive. DJ Clark Kent has designed so many pairs of shoes that he was forced to keep many of them at another residence. "I spin for a living, but I collect for a passion," said Kent in a video.

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