Re-Cap from ITAA 2013


Image sourced from ITAA pintrest

I have been charged for the past several years with reporting to Worn Through readers an account and overview of the yearly International Apparel Association conference.  This year the conference was held in New Orleans.

I was impressed by the caliber of design work in the live show this year. As well, delighted to notice that there is a growing number of design awards being offered. As an interdisciplinary practitioner I was especially excited by a discussion regarding Interdisciplinary formats for future seminars. The special topics session coordinated by the ITAA Philosophical Mission Committee offered a full bank of top-notch speakers. Look for the call from ITAA for new seminar concepts in 2014.

The 2013 ITAA keynote speaker was Rick Helfenbein – President of  Luen Thai USA, the largest publicly traded apparel supply chain services company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. This year Gwendolyn O’Neal was The  ITAA Distinguished Lecturer,  she spoke of  the challenges and opportunities of becoming a highly effective organization and the new skills and competencies needed by leaders to succeed in the coming decades.


Image sourced from

This years design panel included Andi Eaton who is the founder of the vibrant NOLA Fashion Council, a non-profit organization that creates opportunity and exposure for both established and up-and-coming Southern based or born designers, while making an economic and artistic impact on the fashion and beauty industry.

Personal obligations shaped my experience of the conference this year. The 2013 conference was unique for me (because of the recent birth of my daughter who is not yet bottle trained) as I spent most of the conference in the elevator between the rooms where I presented and my hotel room. In order to offer the readership a well-rounded overview I elected to interview two colleagues to share there impressions of this year conference.

I reached out to Kendra Lapolla,  an Associate Professor at Kent State School of Fashion Design and Merchandising. We met at ITAA three years ago and she is a colleague I love catching up with each year. I asked Kendra what the highlights of the 2013 conference were. She was at ITAA to present research in design.

I’d have to say the opening reception and the live gallery. I thought the opening reception was a great kick off to the event. I especially enjoyed seeing all of the amazing masks that others had made specifically for the opening reception. The live gallery show is also always a great part of the conference and an exciting way to see all the inspiring work. This year I tried to sit with different groups of people everyday for breakfast and lunch. I have to say it was an excellent way to network and reach out to those at ITAA that I haven’t met yet. New Orleans was an enjoyable location for the conference and it was nice that Thursday afternoon was scheduled for exploring. I caught up with a colleague during that time and ventured to the French Market. (personal communication. 10/2013)

Image sourced online.

I also reached out to Martha Hall, Adjunct Instructor at The University of Delaware. This was Martha’s first ITAA conference. Martha was at ITAA to present original research on Dress History, Culture, and Aesthetics.

As first time attendee and recent graduate I was both excited and intimidated to go to the ITAA conference.  It represented an amazing opportunity to present research (to get feedback, to get recognition, to challenge myself and be challenged) as well as an opportunity to meet and network with colleagues and peers.  I was only staying for one full day of the conference, so I intended to make the most of my time there!  I presented during the first session on Thursday, and was overwhelmed with the attendance and response. I was presenting a portion of my thesis research and of course was a bit nervous. I had done a huge study based on original research, and as a graduate student member, it’s a little nerve-racking to stand up in front of esteemed members of the fashion and textiles professoriate.  But it went really well and the questions I received following the presentation were stimulating and reflected an attentive audience.

In addition to having the opportunity to present, the most exhilarating part of the entire experience was meeting and networking with colleagues.  I’m not embarrassed to say, I completely “geeked out” with meeting some of the attendees.  As a grad student immersed in research articles and texts, it is unreal to have the chance to meet some of the people whose work I’ve cited or whose texts I’ve read (Gwendolyn O’Neal, Jean Parsons, Susan Kaiser, Linda Welters…).  To be presenting research based on the aesthetic framework of Marilyn DeLong and then be introduced to Marilyn DeLong moments later – realizing she was listening to my presentation – was thrilling!  That type of one-to-one engagement with colleagues, from “celebrity professors” to grad students, made the trip to New Orleans such a rewarding and personally enriching experience.  I came home with many new friends (including WT contributor Ingrid Mida!) and bursting with ideas for new avenues for scholarship!

In terms of suggestions for improvement: I think that had I not had friends guiding me through the conference, I would have had no idea where to go or what options I had for attending some of the casual sessions (like those during meals). As a first time attendee, I’m overwhelmed just being there and especially if I’m presenting; it would have been really helpful to have had instruction or a general guide from the registration desk about events/sessions, etc. (Personal communication. 10/2013)

Did you attend ITAA this year? What were highlights from your perspective?

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