Impact makers
Women in Textile

Trendsetters 2019

Hats off to women in textiles!

This is our eighth annual TrendSetters edition, and for the first time we are focusing exclusively on women in textiles. Featured here and on the following pages are talented individuals who are influencing market direction with creative design, elevated product development and inspired leadership. Hats off to these remarkable women and how they have pioneered the field of performance fabrics and to continue to bring new and exciting materials to our industry — and into our everyday lives.

Kristy Jost
Product Development Specialist / 3M

With a Ph.D. in Materials Science and undergraduate degree in Fashion Design (both from Drexel), now working in the laboratory primarily developing new products based on existing technologies, or working to develop the technology herself for a new product. Research in graduate school focused on developing textile supercapacitors (“fabric batteries”) using nanoscience, electrochemistry and 3D knitting.

My best ideas derive from a culmination and intersection of more than one great idea from more than one technical or design field.

A material solution I helped bring to market is still under development…

Leadership is all about creating a vision worthy of your team’s abilities, in an environment that allows for their own ideation and vision making, while supporting them to push the boundaries of what’s possible, but supporting them so they can get back up when they fall. Leadership is also about promoting authenticity and excellence, for only with those can a vision come true.

A direction in textiles I want to explore is human computer interfacing through biomimicry.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now: People who follow the rules will never make any of their own.

A workplace challenge or industry obstacle I strive to overcome is expanding the idea of a successful business venture from simply making money to include the building of lasting relationships, care for the environment, and the experience of joy as one does their work.

When it comes to sustainability, it is critical that everyone is seeing themselves taking a holistic and systematic view of how sustainability will not only impact the environment, but how will it impact real people. Like nature, diversity is a key ingredient to addressing these problems, and deploying multiple solutions that work together can help to address some of the local challenges.

A woman, or women, in in history I admire is Coco Chanel – because you can always be overdressed but never overly elegant. And Ada Yonath (Nobel Laureate in Chemistry) because the mechanisms of how ribosomes work is incredibly elegant.

Sara DeLuca
Co-Founder, Product Development / Dovetail Workwear

Apparel industry vet and co-founder of the brand leading the women’s workwear movement.

My best ideas derive from our wear-testers. They are our inspiration and our muses.

A material solution I helped bring to market is technology, performance and style in women’s workwear — a category that has been slow to adopt better options.

Leadership is all about making sure no one steals my fabric scissors. And being sure there are IPAs in the office fridge.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is to be irreverent.

A workplace challenge or industry obstacle I strive to overcome is the lack of women’s empowerment in the supply chain, from farms to mills to factories.  

When it comes to sustainability, it’s critical that brands talk less, do more.

Women I admire: NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch.

MeiLin Wan
Vice President, Textile Sales / Applied DNA Sciences

Focusing on “keeping textiles real and safe” by advancing traceability and transparency in the supply chain and building on over 25 years experience in biotechnology, consumer products and personal care industries.

My best ideas derive from when I least expect it! It can be in the car, in the shower, when I am sleeping, when I am traveling — the key is to trust my own intuition because more times than none it’s spot on.

A material solution I helped bring to market is our CertainT molecular business solutions for brand assurance and provenance for a wide range of textiles. Products made from cotton, recycled polyester, down and feather, leather can utilize CertainT solutions. This helps to preserve the integrity of the materials in fiber, yarn, fabric and finished goods, one molecule at a time.

Leadership is all about being able to bring people and processes together to a shared vision and make it a reality with integrity, respect and passion.

A direction in textiles I want to explore is to facilitate cross-industry collaboration, where new opportunities and connections come about by looking across industries to create something that uses what we already know but in a new way. That’s exciting to me.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is “if you don’t try it, you will never know.” If you assume you think you know the outcome, then you will never take a risk in life.

A workplace challenge or industry obstacle I strive to overcome is implementing new ideas in the face of the status quo.

When it comes to sustainability, it is critical that if you claim it, you own it and back it up with scientific data.

A woman, or women, in in history I admire is Queen Elizabeth I — she ruled for over 40 years and provided stability and national identity for her country — through great adversity and personal sacrifice.

Karen Beattie
Senior Product Manager / Polartec

Playing significant roles in Polartec product development for decades and ushering in game-changing performance technologies.

My best ideas derive from multiple sources, including thinking about things that I would like. I was lucky to find myself in the early days of the outdoor industry at a time when there were lots of opportunities to improve clothing comfort. Dissatisfaction with the breathability of shell gear was the impetus for the Neoshell development, boredom with basic fleece led to Thermal Pro sweaters and textures, and hating the feel of a sweaty t-shirt sticking to my back turned into Polartec Delta. But none of those product launches would have been possible without the contributions of lots of other people — coworkers, customers, and even family. Bringing anything to market is truly a team effort.  

A material solution I helped bring to market is Polartec Delta, a cooling fabric solution that works with your body to prolong the convective cooling power of your sweat and maximize breathability, which means you stay more comfortable when it’s hot.    

Leadership is all about “walking the talk.” You can’t say one thing and do another. People see right through that. Good leaders are sincere, empowering, hardworking and just plain nice. Who wants to be associated with someone who isn’t nice?

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now: I heard a good piece of advice a number of years ago. It was  “you are not the customer.” Coming to understand that helped me do a career pivot as I got older. More often now  I look outward for ideas. My outdoor life still qualifies me as an enthusiast, but just barely. And the market has expanded to mean so much more. The influences on today’s lifestyles, the merging of athletic, urban inspiration, technology, and the multiple avenues to pursue in sustainability require a lot more disciplined and multi-faceted approach to product development, in order to stay customer relevant. I watch people to see what they are doing, listen to what they are saying, and read what they are writing. Also, my 14 year-old is becoming quite an asset. There are influences all around us. It’s important to stay open to them, so you can change and adapt.

When it comes to sustainability, it’s critical that you analyze the impacts of prospective changes to try to prevent substituting one problem for another, and be open to incremental change. You may not solve all of a problem at once, but getting something is better than nothing.

A woman, or women, in history I admire are Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, the NASA mathematicians featured in the movie Hidden Figures.

Elizabeth Whalen
Founder / Elizabeth Whalen Design

Designing high-performance textiles for clients ranging from Nike Running and Nike Equipment to Knoll Textiles and Humanscale chairs and Spinneyback leather weaves over a 25 year career.

My best ideas derive from trying to solve a design problem and then going for a walk.

A material solution I helped bring to market is monofilament seating fabrics and four-way stretch upholstery.  

Leadership is all about listening to your intuition, listening to others, taking risks and believing in yourself even if you fail.

A direction in textiles I want to explore is three-dimensional wovens for furniture.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now: It was advice that I got as a younger designer that has shaped my thinking. “Don’t drop your standards and don’t give up.” Niels Diffrient told me this many times as I faced obstacles and my own fears when designing professionally.  

A workplace challenge or industry obstacle I strive to overcome is  moving fabrics out of their current boundaries by creating textiles that are important design solutions. I am interested in creating more purposeful fabrics.

When it comes to sustainability, it is critical that I take a stand:  Design with purpose and well, start moving away from fossil fuel yarns, educate myself about poisonous substances in fabrics that are damaging my environment, and look back in history to learn about sustainable methods that worked and protected Mother Earth.

A woman, or women, in in history I admire is Anni Albers: “On Designing” and her work have guided and inspired me for over twenty years. Also: Dorothea Rockburne, Sonya Delaunay, Gunta Stolzl, Gego, Kathe Kollwitz, Elizabeth Murray, Francoise Grossen, Virginia Woolf, and Katherine Graham. The list goes on and on. There are so many out there.

Alexa Dehmel
Active Sports Designer & Consultant / Founder Bartenstein Academy

A talented European-based textile professional whose latest endeavor is opening a new, future-oriented campus for functional clothing closely linked to industry and industry practices. (www.bartenstein.academy)

My best ideas derive from being in the moments when I’m in oneness with myself. For example, running in nature, walking with my dog in nature, and having my thoughts rolling and then everything that has been scanned in my brain before comes together and solutions are found.

A design solution I helped bring to market was intended to enhance utility and comfort for a new waistband for workwear pants. The design, with certain parts elastic, has the stiffness necessary to hold up the pant when the worker has many devices in his pockets, and as such eliminates the need for a belt. It is very needed in this market.

Leadership is all about giving love to your staff, building up your people, and guiding them with the right values.

A direction in textiles I want to explore more is the option of bringing more diversity into one material. So I’m very interested in the bio-chemical approaches of materials. I think this is the part where the innovation hasn’t been really started yet but in the future will provide comfort in a new way.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is based on two things: One is advice from Christian Weichert — founder of Weichart Agencies, representing textile manufacturers internationally — who said, listen Alexa, you can build your business when you provide full customer service, giving clients a “carefree service” and ability to produce positive results. And the other advice I received during my studies in Paris focused on design and pattern making, I learned that it was super important to always think out of the box — and to consider everything before design from any point of view and angle possible.

When it comes to sustainability, it is critical that companies that use recycled polyester PET bottles clearly identify what is post consumer waste and what are pre-consumer virgin bottles so there is no “greenwashing” about what is truly recycled.

A woman, or women, in in history I admire is Aenne Burda, who founded a magazine in Germany around 1950 that included sheets of paper with the newest patterns for fashionable clothes so ladies were able to buy fabrics and do really beautiful designs for dresses affordably. In this way Burda made the world colorful again after the Second World War in Germany. It’s outstanding what she did.

Kirsten K. Harris
VP of Marketing for North America / Nilit, (creators of Sensil branded nylon)

Specializes in product development, global sourcing and marketing in the active apparel industry and previously positions at Amazon and Nike.

My best ideas derive from traveling the world. It opens my mind and sparks creativity, as well as centers me in unexpected experiences of kindness and beauty.

A material solution I helped bring to market is working collaboratively with an overseas garment manufacturer to creatively fix a production run of unusable garments.

Leadership is all about defining yourself as you stay connected with others, being humble in the face of adversity, and not fearing to take calculated risks.

A direction in textiles I want to explore is WKS (Warp Knit Seamless). I’m fascinated by the endless possibilities and freedom of artistry.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now: The 11 original Nike Maxims. I never leave home without them. My career began at Nike, and I find the Maxims can be applied anywhere, at any company or organization, and in any situation. They allow me freedom to do my job, find creative solutions, and move quickly when needed.

A workplace challenge or industry obstacle I strive to overcome is expanding the idea of a successful business venture from simply making money to include the building of lasting relationships, care for the environment, and the experience of joy as one does their work.

When it comes to sustainability, it is critical that everyone is seeing themselves as an important piece of the greater whole, doing their part, and recognizing that small changes are the ones that multiply to make a huge overall impact for the quality of our environment.

A woman, or women, in in history I admire: Every woman that finds her voice. There is no better time in history than now to use it.

Poppy Gall
Chief Designer & Creative Director/Poppy Gall Design Studio

Thrives on combining function and aesthetics and bold use of color, and instrumental as innovator of women’s-specific performance outdoor apparel as co-founder of Isis for Women brand.

My best ideas and problem solving happen when I am outdoors moving my body and not thinking about anything in particular. I’ve always looked at the textures, shapes, colors and connectivity found in the natural world for inspiration. Yarns, fabric drape, stiches and color all play into the equation.

Leadership is all about surrounding your self with a great team, nurturing it and listening carefully to all stakeholders. Thanking your supporters, giving credit where it is due.

A direction in textiles I want to explore is figuring out how to bring products to market using yarn fibers that are grown in my New England region, spun and dyed and then knit or woven locally.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now: My grandmother was an interior designer and she always challenged me to make lots of sketches, be bold with my color and design decisions and to follow my gut feelings about what is right. I’ve heeded her advice throughout my career.

An industry obstacle I strive to overcome: I am challenged in finding a source for ethically and sustainably produced specialty knit hats and sweaters in the U.S.

When it comes to sustainability, it is critical that manufacturers reduce their carbon footprints as soon as possible. It’s also important that as consumers we alter our mindset and consider the impact of our purchases before buying and ask ourselves; Do I love this product? Is it an impulse buy or something that I will use for a very long time? Is it made from natural or recycled materials? Is it biodegradable or can it be recycled or upcycled? Is it made locally? If one begins thinking this way they will support companies that adhere to environmental sustainability and fair labor standards.

A woman, or women, in in history I admire: I admire all the women that came before me in the Outdoor and Ski industries, who helped pave the way for the next waves of women entrepreneurs, businesswomen and designers.

Carolyn Ebers
Director of Sourcing / Title Nine

Industry veteran with director level management experience in material development, technical design and product development. A career focus on active outdoor performance that includes previous posts with Patagonia, Pearl Izumi, Brooks Running.  

Leadership is an honor. My goal is to attract, hire and support talented people and then get out of their way. The only goal is to fan their flames, clear out rubble in the way (get cross-functional or management support), articulate a shared vision, and manage risk. Creative pragmatists, material and apparel developers navigate the 30,000 foot view of possibility and the tarmac of project management. Leaders support both views and the expertise required to handle this navigation.

As a leader, know you know less than they do in the specificity of their job and be available for sounding out options, brainstorming, and navigating investment decisions.

A direction in textiles I want to continue to explore is the function of Lyocell blends for comfort and performance such as our new “Fresh Terry” program.  Most importantly, explore women’s owned businesses in the textile supply chain from fiber to finished product.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now: “There is more than one right answer.” Perspective changes quickly and often. Receptivity to change, to others’ views and challenges results in destinations that might exceed initial goals and expectations.

A workplace challenge or industry obstacle I strive to overcome: For some time, folks have perceived a lack of diversity in the outdoor retail space including the material supply chain. I strive to collaborate with, connect and lead with other women in the material and product pipeline including those that are starting their careers or are 10 years into leading their own business.

Stephanie Benedetto
Co-Founder / Queen of Raw

Corporate attorney turned fashion tech and sustainability entrepreneur, an award-winning innovator and advocate for the circular economy.

My best ideas derive from my three year-old son. I want him to have clean water to drink and a planet to live on. And I know I can be a key part of making that happen.

A material solution I helped bring to market is a marketplace to buy and sell $120 billion of sustainable and dead stock textiles, keeping them out of landfill and turning that pollution into profit.

Leadership is all about inspiring and empowering those around you.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is don’t be afraid to take risks, put your ideas out there, and test your solution in the market. These are important steps to being able to improve your offering and iterate your product effectively.

When it comes to sustainability, it’s critical that we look at supply chains that are insanely wasteful, which harms people, planet, and profit. We can solve the problem with sustainable business models, innovative technology like blockchain and machine learning/AI, and diversifying data.

Jean Hegedus
Director of Sustainability / Lycra Company

On the front lines of branded performance products featuring Lycra in ready-to-wear, denim, wovens and now leading the firm’s sustainability efforts.

My best ideas derive from reflecting on consumer needs.

A material solution I helped bring to market is high stretch fabrics with excellent shape retention through LYCRA dualFX technology.  

Leadership is all about having a vision, rallying the team around the vision, and enabling successful execution.

A direction in textiles I want to explore is solutions for the circular economy.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is “There’s more than one way to solve a problem.”

A workplace challenge or industry obstacle I strive to overcome is developing more circular solutions across the industry.

When it comes to sustainability, it is critical to identify and focus on solutions that truly make an impact.

A woman, or women, in in history I admire is Maya Angelou.

Sandra Marquardt
President / On the Mark Public Relations

Pioneering advocacy and research services to the organic and sustainable sectors, continuing to spearhead media relations and issue campaigns to communicate and educate around sustainability in textiles. Organic Trade Association Fiber Council Secretary.

My best ideas derive from 1) being outdoors, surrounded by nature at its most raw and vulnerable and seeing or imagining human impact on it, and 2) brainstorming with my brilliant colleagues throughout the organic and sustainable textile sectors.

A material solution I helped bring to market is is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). When working with the Organic Trade Association, we felt there was a need to develop U.S. standards addressing processing as well as production. We developed voluntary U.S. standards, much of which were incorporated into the global standard.

Leadership is all about having a dream, listening, learning, and commitment to and passion for being the positive change you want to see in this world.

A direction in textiles I want to explore is is circularity, with inputs addressed at every stage.

Advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now: Be as close to nature as possible – it will take care of you if you take care of it.

A workplace challenge or industry obstacle I strive to overcome is frustration with companies using organic fiber, but not being certified or addressing the post-harvest processing stages. Organic now addresses from field to final product. There’s no need to stop short.

When it comes to sustainability, it is critical that everyone is seeing themselves as the impact on both humans and the environment is addressed at every stage.

A woman, or women, in history I admire is “Silent Spring” author Rachel Carson, who woke me up to the dangers of pesticides which led me into working with the beauty of the world of organics.