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Textile Design Alumna Develops Materials For The North Face

Bonny Allison

By Sarah Stone

Exploring with the world’s top climbers, creating custom apparel for outdoor athletes and influencing the products that end up on The North Face’s shelves — these are just a few of the responsibilities Bonny Allison carries out as a senior materials developer.

“My favorite thing about The North Face is our connection to our athletes. We have a world class athlete team, and we build premium products specific to their needs. It’s incredible, the things these people achieve, honestly,” Allison, who holds a B.S. in fashion and textile design from the Wilson College of Textiles, says.

The 2017 graduate spends most of her time as a senior materials developer executing the “fabric commercialization process.”

So, what exactly does that mean? Designers and category managers brief Allison on the type of garment or product they’re looking to make, the price range and the general aesthetic vision. She’s in charge of developing the custom material and fabric for that product, while considering technical performance needs, testing, sustainability and sourcing. 

“I love that I get to work cross functionally with teams to create great products in the end,” Allison says. “It’s creative and solution oriented, but also has a huge technical component as well.”

This intersection between the technical and the creative is what drew Allison to the Wilson College in the first place. 

“I actually learned about it through a family friend. Their kids went through the programs in the department of textile engineering, chemistry and science. I was interested in math and science but also had this creative side,” Allison, who chose a concentration in textile design, remembers. “When I heard about the new fashion and textile design program coming up that was a Bachelor of Science degree, it piqued my interest immediately.” 

She says the comprehensive understanding of textiles she gained at the college in design, technology and production provided a crucial foundation for her current role. 

“I also like to think that I’m providing something unique in the department by being able to speak to designers, understand their goals and execute that goal with the technical know-how,” she says. 

More specifically, Allison often pulls from the lessons she learned in Professor Blan Godfrey’s entrepreneurship class. 

“Every week, he brought in a new entrepreneur to talk to us about their process and how they approach the industry and how they got to where they are,” she says. “Even if you aren’t an entrepreneur, I think there are a lot of lessons you can learn, like having ownership over your work.”

A combination of internships, coursework and a love of the outdoors helped Allison realize she wanted to pursue a career in product development for a company like The North Face. A career fair at the Wilson College her senior year gave Allison the introduction that turned into her first job. 

Even though she lives and works in Denver, Colorado, now, Allison says she’s never far away from fellow members of the Wolfpack. 

She suggests that current students take advantage of this close knit community before they graduate. 

“It doesn’t matter if a professor is in your department or not, people are happy to sit down with you for 30 minutes and give some insight.”