As lead developer for VF Corporation’s Global Innovation Center, NC State Wilson College of Textiles double alumnus Colin Holloway works toward one goal: developing breakthrough technologies for new products. It’s a role that Holloway embraces as he collaborates with strategists, project managers, scientists, testing engineers and designers at VF’s Global Footwear Innovation Center in Dover, N.H. — one of the company’s three Global Innovation Centers.
Holloway works closely with cross-functional teams from some of the 20-plus brands under the VF umbrella, including Vans, Timberland and The North Face. He leads the company’s Global Innovation engine in the research, development and delivery of dynamic materials solutions for footwear and apparel — shepherding new products from initial idea to commercialization and production — and travels the world in support of this mission.
“My role within VF has allowed me to travel to universities, trade shows, symposiums, technology partner sites and manufacturing facilities, as well as to our brand headquarters, all of which continue to enhance my level of expertise,” he said. “The ability to travel both domestically and abroad has provided me with continued learning opportunities which positively impact our innovation team as well as VF’s brands.”
Last year, he was proud to serve as a mentor for one of his alma mater’s senior design project teams — the first collaboration between the VF Global Innovation Center (GIC) and the Wilson College of Textiles. He led the team, comprised of student partners Ted Meyers, Eric Kaylor and Monique Floyd, on their project to develop a footwear focused material which would provide adaptive performance in a range of external environments.
“My experience in leading this project was amazing,” he said. “The most impactful thing for both the students and our GIC team was that we were able to go through the entire footwear creation process, from concept to finished shoe. This project allowed the students to interface with each cross-functional aspect of our team, including materials, design, product development, and performance testing; this culminated with multiple finished footwear samples that were created and presented with their final presentation as part of a planned visit for the team up to our Innovation Center in New Hampshire.”
Holloway believes that a Wilson College of Textiles partnership with a leading company in the industry helps develop a better prepared workforce, harnesses the power of “bright, forward-thinking students” and provides employees and students with access to cutting-edge laboratories on campus.
“Long term, the ability to mentor students either via the Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science program, campus visits, or via social media is something that I will continue to do on a regular basis,” he said. “I’m always happy to give students insight into my experiences thus far, but the most important thing to me is that they understand that there are really no limitations regarding opportunities when you leave the Wilson College of Textiles.”
In addition to working with students directly, Holloway looks forward to having an impact as a member of an advisory board that will help steer the newly formed partnership between VF Corporation and NC State.
Holloway earned both his bachelor’s degree in Textile Technology (2007) and his Master of Textiles degree (2009) from the NC State Wilson College of Textiles — a decision he called, “one of the best things I’ve done, both personally and professionally.”
As a high school student, he attended a presentation by a representative from the Wilson College of Textiles and was impressed to learn how intertwined textiles are with daily life.
“I felt — and still feel — that due to my experience within the College, I have the ability to collaborate with or for a number of brands and industries, which is a powerful feeling,” he said.
As an undergraduate, he interned at Cotton Incorporated in Cary, N.C. The internship’s hands-on technical experience helped hone his problem-solving skills and apply his education to real-world problems. A graduate assistantship with COT professor Dr. Pam Banks-Lee brought expanded opportunities, including the chance to work with undergraduate students, and a new view to career opportunities in textiles.
Prior to joining VF, Holloway worked with companies and in roles across the apparel and footwear industry that prepared him well for his current position. He was a materials manager for Footwear at Under Armour, fabric developer for Oakley, product development and sourcing specialist for Abercrombie and Fitch, and director of innovation research for Fruit of the Loom.
A strong combination of education and professional experience means that Holloway brings a thorough understanding of textiles, technology and innovation to his current position. But his role also influences him in a number of ways.
“I’m constantly exposed to forward thinking individuals within our organization as well as through relationships that extend beyond the walls of VF,” he said. “Being able to converse with internal team members and external partners that are constantly thinking about future trends, technologies and their impact always keeps me looking ahead. My inspiration comes from these types of ‘futurists’ and helps me to think critically about the goals of the team I’m a part of as well as brands that we partner with to deliver game changing products to our customers.”
Holloway also shared some recent, exciting personal news. He and his wife Crystal, herself a Wilson College of Textiles double alumna, welcomed their second child in August 2017.
“I owe everything to NC State, particularly the Wilson College of Textiles,” he said. “Crystal and I look forward to telling our boys, Mason and Liam, how special of a place the College is to us and maybe persuade them to become part of the Wolfpack!”