Textile Innovations: From Home Sewer to VP

Posted on June 14, 2017

For Diane Bond Warren, BS ’77, MBA ’86, no two work days are alike. In her role as vice president of merchandising for VF Imagewear, she may attend a strategic planning session, evaluate the effect of a product on human performance, and shift to solve a personnel resource issue all on the turn of a dime. Diane credits her success in this dynamic in large part to her UNCG MBA.

“My MBA studies gave me exposure to a variety of business disciplines such as accounting, operations, finance, and marketing. The MBA creates a basis of knowledge to function in a job like this.”

VF Imagewear specializes in work-related clothing brands such as Bulwark FR®, Horace Small®, and RedKap®. The products are constructed to meet standards for employee safety and durability in law enforcement and various types of manufacturing.

Innovation is critical to the products that Diane works with – that means a constant process of strategic alignment and collaboration with the marketing and leadership teams. Diane says, “We are paying attention to the product life cycle and editing constantly.”

For example, employees working on an oil rig need the assurance of flame resistant clothing, but Diane knows that there is also a strong need for mobility and comfort. Bulwark FR® brand launched a product, IQ, that has superior comfort for flame resistant apparel.

Diane’s four-decade career in textile marketing and merchandising began with her BS in clothing and textiles from UNCG. When she was in the Clothing & Textiles department (now the Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies Department in the Bryan School of Business and Economics), many graduates went on to be home economics teachers or work in a retail environment. The curriculum was different in many ways than the program currently in place today.

“Before coming to UNCG, I was an avid home sewer, and I had some knowledge about garment construction. In my department, I learned so much more about garment construction, textiles, elements of design, and patternmaking. I would not have had necessary pattern making skills without my undergraduate degree.”

Diane used those skills in her first job at Blue Bell working as a pattern maker, and she eventually became a project manager. “When I got into the project manager role, I realized I lacked sufficient business knowledge needed to advance my career.” At the suggestion of a coworker, she started taking MBA classes at UNCG at night. The classes helped her see the big picture in her industry; and as she progressed through the program, she found greater ways to have an impact in her job.

The courses Diane took during her MBA program gave her a sense of the influence her team could have on the business and today, as she points out, “knowing the impact of your decisions on the business is critical. MBA coursework gave me the ability to ask the right questions and dive into the methods to make better decisions.”

From Blue Bell, which merged with VF Corporation in 1987, Diane moved to Kayser-Roth Corporation where she worked for 17 years and became VP of Marketing. While at Kayser-Roth, Diane worked with the No Nonsense Brand and Burlington socks. In 2011, she was recruited back to VF Corporation as VP of Merchandising for VF Imagewear in Nashville, TN.

The pattern making and design work that Diane studied in her undergraduate program echoes in her work today. Diane says, “I have always loved garment construction and putting the product together, and I love being back in product development and merchandising because it touches my roots.”


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