Faculty from the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design worked closely with Lincoln Calling, the citywide arts and entertainment festival, to host their annual Professional Advisory Council.
Three virtual panel discussions took place Oct. 1-3, and are now free to view via the department’s Facebook page and Lincoln Calling websites. The event reached over 2,500 viewers by the end of the weekend.
This year, the Professional Advisory Council focused on sustainability, innovation and the future of the industry. Panelists from a wide range of industries related to textiles, apparel design and the retail sectors discussed their experiences on each topic.
“The Apparel Industry and the ‘Next Normal’ ” kicked off the event on Oct. 1 with a discussion of the impact of the pandemic on business, virtual production and new entrepreneurial approaches to the industry. The panelists included Kate Betts, former editor of Vogue and Harper’s; Scott Bowen, CEO Signs and Shapes; Megan Ehrke, Select Style; Chris Hughes, ARTIFACT; Carrie Bruss, Duncan Aviation; Kristi Vritiska, The Buckle; and Brook Hudson, Omaha Fashion Week.
Notable highlights include Hughes describing how his company ARTIFACT pivoted early in the pandemic from making aprons and bags to selling personal protective equipment masks. He noted that running lean operations with skilled labor allowed him to stay afloat and turn a profit. Bruss from Duncan Aviation shared that the company now uses 3D models and virtual meetings for aviation clients worldwide, which has increased sales and service points while cutting costs for clients.
“For any of you who are feeling down about what’s happening right now, just remember that sustained effort over time will get you where you want to go,” Hudson said.
Hudson noted that her company, Omaha Fashion Week, was started during the last economic crisis of 2008 and has developed to become the fourth largest fashion event in the United States.
“Sustainable Fashion and Corporate Social Responsibility” aired Oct. 2, on both the department Facebook page and on the Lincoln Calling virtual platforms. Abby Gross, Chant; Gage Mruz, Greenstain; and Hughes joined Sandra Starkey, assistant professor, and Yiqi Yang, professor, in a discussion of sustainable manufacturing practices, alternative corporate solutions, and the topic of “greenwashing.” Gross, a University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumna, illustrated how her company has become a leader in producing clear handbags made from biodegradable plastics. Hughes offered a different perspective, stating that quality is an environmental issue and although his company produces leather goods, their tagline is “Buy it Once.”
The event closed Oct. 3 with “Innovation and the Apparel Industry,” moderated by Jenny Jorgensen, assistant professor. She was joined Rachel Sheehy, JCPenny; Scott Bowen, Signs and Shapes; Clair Vrbka; Vrtiska and Gross. When asked about opportunities in the industry for using VR and AR technologies, Sheehy indicated that JCPenny would struggle to scale up virtual fitting and sizing technologies to effectively connect with their customers and that smaller businesses are much more nimble during times of crisis and great change.
The Professional Advisory Council group debriefed university faculty on their engagements with students and their experiences hiring students and alumni over the years.
“There isn’t a strong pipeline back to Nebraska if graduates with skills in pattern design, 3D and concept development leave the state,” said Bowen, of Signs and Shape, an international company producing custom inflatables seen at Disney, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and sporting events worldwide. “We’ve been fortunate to hire these people from Nebraska.”
Anyone interested in connecting with Professional Advisory Council members are welcome to contact the department chair, Yiqi Yang, for an introduction.