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Andre West Named 2018 Textiles Leader of the Year

Dr. Andre West

By Susan Fandel

NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles has named Andre West the 2018 Leader of the Year. West, who is an assistant professor in the Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management department, will receive his award at the Leader of the Year banquet on April 3.

Each year the award is bestowed upon an individual who has shown outstanding leadership qualities that have moved the textile industry forward in innovative ways. Members of the Kappa Tau Beta leadership fraternity and Phi Psi professional textile fraternity choose the recipient who best represents the goals and ideals of the two Wilson College of Textiles student-led fraternities.

“We are very excited to honor Dr. West as this year’s Leader of the Year. Dr. West is an exceptional teacher who truly cares about his students and helps them to reach their full potential,” said Liesl Miranda, vice president of Kappa Tau Beta. “He actively engages with his students and fosters a sense of innovation which students utilize throughout their time in the Wilson College of Textiles and beyond. On top of his academic endeavors, his research provides game-changing impacts which will push the textile industry forward. Witnessing his motivation to help others through his work and expand the industry is inspiring to us all.”

On top of his academic endeavors, his research provides game-changing impacts which will push the textile industry forward.

West will be honored at the 2018 Textile Leader of the the Year Banquet to be held Tuesday, April 3 in the Convocation Center at the Wilson College of Textiles on NC State’s Centennial Campus. A social marks the start of the event at 6:30 p.m. and the dinner will begin at 7:15 p.m. This event is open to all Wilson College of Textiles’ students, faculty, staff and friends. Tickets are $20 for students, $30 for non-students and can be purchased online through March 30 or until they are sold out. No tickets will be sold at the door and space is limited.

“Winning this award was very unexpected. Especially being nominated by the students. It’s a privilege to be able to impart my industry knowledge and to shape the minds and creativity of future industry leaders. I’d like to treat this moment as a starting point to rally others to hone their skills for the greater good,” said West.

This attitude toward serving the greater good extends to his teaching research, which focuses on the use of technology within textiles and fashion product development inclusive of sublimation printing, 3D virtual garment making, generative design, 3D body scanning and whole garment knitwear.

He brings that expertise to his role as part of an interdisciplinary team of NC State researchers (entomologists and a comfort specialist) working to develop materials that resist insect bites without the use of pesticides and harmful chemicals. Funding sources include the Department of Defense, the USDA, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This team received funding in 2017 from the the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund.

“Andre is undoubtedly the most creative person that I have interacted with. He is leading our research effort to develop mosquito-bite resistant fabrics. My experience has been that 80 percent of any accomplishment is based on teamwork. In this regard, Andre is the prototypical team player. I am grateful for his collegiality and his friendship,” said Charles Apperson, the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus in NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

While he’s only been at NC State for about five years, West’s been in the apparel business for over 30 years. After graduating from Huddersfield University he was employed by one of the first trend forecasting companies in England, Dereck Healey International. While employed at Dryck Healey, he developed his own clothing line which was presented at Central St. Martins University and sold in a number of London boutiques.

In 1984, he moved to the United States and worked for Hampshire Designers Group as a product development manager. He was later recruited to work for a knitwear house called Sweaters USA based in Greensboro, North Carolina, producing garments for JC Penny and Walmart. West went on to form his own domestic manufacturing company called Knit Design Group designing under the name Andre St. Romaine. He grew this business with a New York showroom and three retail stores. Seeing the trend toward manufacturing going offshore, he sold his business after a brief stint manufacturing in South America.

West began his career in acdemia as a part-time instructor at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale teaching product development. Within the year he was promoted to department head. Over the 12 years at the Art Institute, he grew the department from 200 students to nearly 600 students while developing three new programs: a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design, a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising, and a diploma in Retail Management.

While managing the department, West completed his Master’s of Visual Arts at Miami International School of Art and Design with an MFA. Following this he completed an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership at Argosy University, graduating in 2012. 

In August 2013, he joined the faculty in the Wilson College of Textiles at NC State, where he  teaches computer aided design CAD patternmaking, workshop practices, and the history of fashion online. 

But he also teaches students about becoming leaders, which he views as a three-stage process. “Transactional. We understand what needs to be accomplished and together we aim to achieve that. Transformational, where you understand a person’s creativity, talent and workmanship and you try to inspire that person to the next level. Servant leadership, the one I love the most, where my focus is primarily on the growth and well-being of people and communities to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.”

These lessons are not lost on students.

“Dr. West is a vibrant soul who will stop at no end to make this world a better place. His tenacity and enthusiasm constantly inspires and motivates others to be the greatest version of themselves, and I am lucky to have experienced his mentorship,” said Lilah Halbkat, who is pursuing a Master’s of Science in Textiles.