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Industry Talk

Women in Textiles Summit shines in Arizona

Women throughout the industry from suppliers to manufacturers to academia and government found each other to connect.

7th March 2024

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Phoenix, AZ, USA


ATA’s 2024 Women in Textiles Summit took place from 12-14 February in Phoenix, Arizona, where participants kicked off with a Smash Room Experience to try out a brand-new type of therapy. A welcome reception followed where new and returning faces greeted each other for another great event. The summit welcomed 48 first-time attendees this year.

Just under 100 attendees gathered the next morning for the beginning of education and networking sessions, led by vivacious emcees Jasmine Cox, Gaston College and Nichole Holroyd, Spiritus Systems.  Women in Textiles Summit favourite, Dr. Melissa Furman jumped right in with some reflective questions on what success means and how to get the job done with help from your personal power name.

 “It’s inspiring to have so many women together that have the same motivations. As someone from manufacturing I never see this many women together at once. So that in itself is very impactful,” said Genavieve Lombara, Haartz Corporation. 

Presenters continued the day with topics such as social media and blogging and a panel, ‘Women in Textiles Making Great Things’ featuring three women who spoke passionately about their journey and contributions to the industry. Clelia Parisi, Apex Mills; Jennifer Fennell, Polo Custom Products; and Xochil Herrera Scheer. From ideation to production, owning a small business and managing teams, these women take on innovation with energy and natural curiosity, because in the words of Parisi, “If you don’t grow, it gets boring!”

Breakout groups took a new approach with Dr. Furman returning to conduct network speed dating, an exercise to divide the group and encourage brand new connections and conversations. Additional discussion groups also included breaking up by position titles to talk trends and challenges within areas of work such as sales, marketing, engineering, administration and more. 

“Networking is always great. Even after several years I’m still meeting new contacts,” said Mary Reardon, MMI Textiles. Attendees then celebrated Galentine’s Day with Dinner and Trivia to unwind and process the content from the day.

Day two of education began with an empowering talk and mind map exercise from Amy Rivera who spoke passionately about her journey with Lymphedema. As an author, speaker and advocate, Rivera shared her story and how we can all become empowered through challenges by unleashing your inner strength and unlearning being taught to hide. Hand surgeon and medical textiles specialist, Holly V. Morris, followed with session ‘The Role of Textiles in Creating a Greener Theatre’ where she discussed the impact of medical textile waste ways to question practices with three words: refuse, rethink and redesign. 

Groups again broke up this time by where the attendee is in their textile career such as new to the industry, middle managers, and executives. This was a great chance to learn and share from others in similar on how they face challenges and earn success.

Education came to a close with two final sessions including dynamic entrepreneur, Billie Whitehouse, speaking on ‘Techstyles to Help us Live Well’ about her innovative approaches to wellness through e-textiles. Emcee, Nichole Holroyd and speaker Apurba Bannerjee from Standard Textile concluded with a talk on the pay gap between men and women in the textile industry including data and real-life examples.

Last chance networking took place that evening at Wine Girl in Downtown Scottsdale where the women could take another chance to recap the event and continue to make connections.

“As a first-time attendee to the Women in Textiles Summit, I was blown away by the experience,” said Christina Rapa from W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc, “The networking opportunities and career-focused programming was a fantastic way to connect with other women in the textile and apparel industry. I met up with suppliers who I've only seen at trade shows or via email and found textile graduates from both Jefferson University and NC State University (my two alma-maters). I'll be back again next year and will bring my colleagues along also.”

The next Women in Textiles Summit will take place in New York City in Spring 2025 at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

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