Philadelphia University Trustee William Jasper, CEO and chairman of the board of Unifi, Inc., spoke about sustainability in textile manufacturing and other industry issues during a talk on campus Feb. 21.
Though the U.S. textile industry endured a contraction in the early 2000s due to cheaper Asian competition, Jasper said the industry has stabilized and is once again growing strong, especially in the Philadelphia region. He said the $18 billion U.S. textile industry now employs close to half a million workers and became the third-largest worldwide exporter of textile products in 2013.
Jasper attributed Unifi’s success to the company’s speed, flexibility, short supply chain and innovative new products such as Repreve, a fiber constructed from recycled bottles, which is used in North Face outerwear and Ford automotive products.
“We have worked to be a sustainable company for many, many years,” Jasper said of Unifi, a leading producer and processor of multi-filament polyester and nylon textured yarns. “Today Unifi is 100 percent landfill free.”
Catherine Shollenberger, a fashion design major who plans to pursue a career in fashion illustration, was one of many students from a variety of majors who packed the DEC Center to hear Jasper’s talk. “I didn’t realize how much recycled material goes into various products globally,” she said.
Jasper stressed the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in all fields of work. “Figure out how to work well with others,” he advised students. “Be very open-minded.”
Jasper was awarded Philadelphia University’s Leader of Innovation Medal at the 2012 Innovation Gala for outstanding contributions to his field.