Women in Textiles Summit - Making Great Things Panel

Posted Mon, Feb 12, 2024 in Press Media

Kaylee Smith, Regional Sales Manager North America, Mehler Engineered Products
Jennifer Fennell, Supply Chain and Process Improvement Advisor, Polo Custom Products
Xochil Herrera Scheer, Apparel Engineer, Product Development Expert | President & Founder The Chicago Pattern Maker (XOCHIL INC)
Clelia Parisi, Senior Fabric and Market Research Analyst, Apex Mills Corp

ATA’s 2024 Women in Textiles Summit took place February 12–14 in Phoenix, AZ. 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. We were excited to welcome 48 first-time attendees to this year’s Summit.

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 favorite, 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.

Women throughout the industry from suppliers to manufacturers to academia and government found each other to connect, “[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,” 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,” stated 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 programing 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.”


I enjoyed having the opportunity to share my story of how I grew my business from lone freelancer working on basically every project I could, to having a small team and being so in demand I get to choose who and what I work on. It has not been an easy road, but it has been incredibly worth it to be involved in the making of beautiful, functional products, especially those that impact lives. It is my varied experiences that have made me a well rounded designer, pattern maker, consultant, and teacher.

Moderated by Kaylee Smith, I was in the company of Jennifer Fennell, Supply Chain and Process Improvement Advisor, Polo Custom Products, and Clelia Parisi, Senior Fabric and Market Research Analyst, Apex Mills Corp. These incredible women have amazing stories of their own, and I was honored to be included alongside them for this inspiring conversation, and on Galentine's Day to boot!

Thank you ATA for inviting me to Phoenix, and for a great first day of the conference!

Tagged press media womenintextiles advancedtextilesassociation

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