Karen K.  Leonas

Karen Leonas

Professor, TATM

Fashion and Textile Management: Textile Brand Management and Marketing
Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management

Wilson College Directory

About Karen Leonas

Dr. Karen K. Leonas, Professor of Textile Sciences, in the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management.  She is a member of the graduate faculty in Textile Technology Management, Fiber and Polymer Sciences, and Textile Chemistry.  Dr. Leonas teaches a variety of classes including an introductory class, The Textile Industry, and graduate courses in Sustainability and Textile Technology Management. She has received numerous award for outstanding teaching and advising.

Her research has spanned several areas and she is well known for product development, medical textiles, and reducing/evaluating the environmental impacts of textile and apparel production and consumption.  Her strengths in chemistry and polymer engineering, combined with understanding the development, production, distribution and consumption allows for insights to address sustainability through the textile and apparel supply chain.  Several years ago, she chose to focus her research on this complex and critical area.  Specifically she has investigated polymer degradation in various environments (marine, freshwater, agricultural, body fluids), microfiber release and transmission, new product development using recycled and bio materials materials (recycled PET, Nylon, PLA, Cotton, etc.), processing technologies to reduce environmental impact, and water scarcity/footprint to name a few.  She is a strong advocate for a circular economy (closed loop manufacturing) business model.  Dr. Leonas has received numerous awards and recognitions for her research.

Dr. Leonas frequently partners with industry and is on the New York Academy of Sciences Change Fashion Advisory Board, Walmart Technical Collaboration Board, Walmart Sustainability Collaboration Board, AATCC Sustainability Committee, The Sustainability Consortium – Co-Chair, Clothing, Footwear and Textile Committee, are several of her memberships.  In addition, she is active in the University and Community efforts promoting sustainable practices.

Dr. Leonas received her BS in Textile Chemistry from NC State, her MS in Clothing and Textiles from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and her PhD in Textile Chemistry/Textile Physics with and emphasis in Polymer Engineering as part of the PATRA (Polymer and Textile Research Association) from the University for Tennessee, Knoxville.  She worked for Burlington Industries, Industrial Fabrics Division and has been on the Faculty at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, University of Georgia, and Washington State University prior to being asked to join the Wilson College of Textiles faculty.  She has served in various administrative roles including Graduate Programs Coordinator and Department Head at several of these Universities.


  • Sustainability through the Textile and Apparel Supply Chain including product development, process changes and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
  • Microfiber release and fate
  • Circular Economy/Closed Loop Manufacturing
  • Weathering and degradation of polymeric materials
  • Personal protective equipment material design and development, specifically for resistance to small particle and liquid transmission
  • Product development and evaluation (chemical and physical)
  • Surface and chemical modifications of textile and polymeric materials

Academic Degrees

  • Ph.D. Textile Chemistry/Textile Physics, University of Tennessee, 1985
  • M.S. Clothing and Textiles, University of Tennessee, 1983
  • B.S. Textile Chemistry, North Carolina State University, 1980


Generation Z female consumers' preferences for swimwear products with sustainability-relevant attributes
Li, J., & Leonas, K. K. (2021, October 8), JOURNAL OF GLOBAL FASHION MARKETING. https://doi.org/10.1080/20932685.2021.1960580
Sustainability topic trends in the textile and apparel industry: a text mining-based magazine article analysis
Li, J., & Leonas, K. K. (2021), JOURNAL OF FASHION MARKETING AND MANAGEMENT. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFMM-07-2020-0139
The impact of communication on consumer knowledge of environmentally sustainable apparel
Li, J., & Leonas, K. K. (2021, August 20), JOURNAL OF FASHION MARKETING AND MANAGEMENT. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFMM-02-2021-0034
Evaluation of certified B Corps in the apparel, footwear and accessory industry
Li, J., & Leonas, K. K. (2020), RESEARCH JOURNAL OF TEXTILE AND APPAREL. https://doi.org/10.1108/RJTA-07-2020-0077
Millennials' Intention to Use Self-Checkout Technology in Different Fashion Retail Formats: Perceived Benefits and Risks
Lee, H., & Leonas, K. K. (2020), CLOTHING AND TEXTILES RESEARCH JOURNAL. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887302X20926577
Evaluation of a robotic transfer replicator: machine parameters that affect measurements of transfer of particulates from carpet surfaces to human skin versus human skin-like surfaces
Yu, H., Brewer, M. S., Leonas, K. K., Knopp, J. A., & Annis, P. A. (2018), TEXTILE RESEARCH JOURNAL, 88(19), 2234–2249. https://doi.org/10.1177/0040517517718191
Visual assessments of biodegradable mulch deterioration are not indicative of changes in mechanical properties
Cowan, J. S., Saxton, A. M., Liu, H., Leonas, K. K., Inglis, D., & Miles, C. A. (2016), HortScience, 51(3), 245–254.
Degradation of potentially biodegradable plastic mulch films at three diverse u.s. locations
Li, C. H., Moore-Kucera, J., Miles, C., Leonas, K., Lee, J., Corbin, A., & Inglis, D. (2014), Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 38(8), 861–889. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2014.884515
Weight loss and morphology changes of electrospun poly(ɛ-caprolactone) yarns during in vitro degradation
Liu, H., & Leonas, K. K. (2010), Fibers and Polymers, 11(7), 1024–1031. https://doi.org/10.1007/S12221-010-1024-6
Using LSCM to Study the Barrier Effectiveness of Textiles used in Medical Protective Apparel
Leonas, K. K. (2004), Microscopy and Microanalysis, 10(S02), 186–187. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1431927604881236

View All Publications


  • The Sustainability Consortitum - Clothing, Footwear and Textile Committee, co-chair
  • New York Academy of Sciences - Advisory Board - Change Fashion
  • Textile ExChange - Advisory Board - Change Fashion
  • WalMart Sustainability Collaboration Board - Advisory Board - Change Fashion
  • WalMart Technical Collaboration Board - Advisory Board - Change Fashion


  • FTM 217 - The Textile Industry ,
  • TTM 508 - Sustainability through the Textile and Apparel Industry , Spring
  • TTM 710 - Advances in Textile Technology Innovation Management , Fall
  • TTM 583 - Product Development in Textiles and Apparel ,
  • TTM 491 - Exploration of the Textile and Apparel Industry in the Pacific Northwest ,
  • FTM 491 - Exploration of the Global Textile Industry - Hong Kong and China ,
  • FTM 491 - - Cotton Sustainability Through the Supply Chain ,

Additional Information

Graduate Projects

TSC Waste Water Challenge – Phase 1 Global Landscape Development

Recycled Fibers in Consumer Products

Sustainably designed garments for fast fashion

Feasibility of 3D Knitting of Tactical Combat Shirts

Foam Dyeing to Reduce Environmental Impact of Wet Textile Processing

Evaluating Hemp as a suitable textile alternative through performance evaluation and environmental impact of growing using LCA tools

Impact of Sustainability Related Terms and and Education on Consumer Purchasing Decisions

Factors influencing participation in Take-Back Programs

Textile related factors that influence fiber release during accelerated home laundering



Areas of Expertise