By Devin Steele

Serving as president of the ITAA (International Textile and Apparel Association) this year has been rewarding, says Dr. Byoungho “Ellie” Jin, Albert Myers Distinguished Professor in Textile Economics and Management in the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management (TATM).

“I am so proud to represent the Wilson College of Textiles in this position,” she says. “Being a leader in the ITAA greatly boosts the image of the college, and it allows me to share my knowledge of brand management and marketing to a broad international audience.”

Indeed, Jin, the first president of the 86-year-old association who wasn’t born in the U.S., brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the position. A South Korean native, she has traveled the world studying various markets and has earned numerous best research paper awards, published more than 134 refereed papers and secured approximately $1.6 million in research grants from prestigious sponsors such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Research Foundation of Korea.

The ITAA is a professional, educational association composed of scholars, educators and students in the textile, apparel and merchandising disciplines in higher education. The organization hosted its 2021 Virtual Annual Conference November 3-6, during which time it was announced that Jin and her co-authors won a Paper of Distinction honor for their work, “Consumer religiosity, cosmopolitanism and ethnocentrism in Indonesia: Their impact on global brand preference and purchase intention toward Korean cosmetics.” The paper is a partial result of a research project funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea. She is a multiple-time recipient of the ITAA’s Paper of Distinction.

In her candidate statement when she was nominated for the ITAA Council, which led to her being elected president her first time on the ballot, she included her goals. Among them was her desire to become more active in engaging the industry and advocating for the association globally, she said.

“I have been reaching out to industry scholars around the world and many international companies because, even though the name says ‘international,’ we want it to be even more international,” she says. “We have many members from Canada, Korea, some Asian countries and South Africa, but we would like to have more European scholars. And I have strongly encouraged people that we need to be more active in reaching our industry through industry collaboration and technology.”

These outreach efforts have been beneficial and have resulted in more than just new members, Jin notes. She contacted Youngone Corp. – a South Korea-based global manufacturer of outdoor and athletic clothing, textiles and footwear for numerous brands – and spoke with its chairman on multiple occasions. The result of those conversations? The company donated the highest cash award ($20,000 USD) to the ITAA in its history.

Jin announced the award and honored the company during her ITAA President’s Address this month. 

“We are so happy for Youngone’s huge generosity,” she said. “This is a tremendous gift that will greatly benefit the ITAA.”

​​With that cash donation, Jin created the Youngone Paper of Distinction Awards for research on sustainability and the global apparel industry.

Jin, whose term closes on December 31, at which time she’ll be elevated to counselor of the ITAA Council, has been active in the association since 1993. She served on numerous committees before being nominated for its council.

Aside from serving such an esteemed international association, Jin has a strong passion for teaching and sharing her decades of knowledge with her students, she says. At the Wilson College of Textiles, she is the co-concentration director with Professor Marguerite Moore of the brand management and marketing concentration of the fashion and textile management program.

She has traveled to many countries – including Italy, where she spent a semester researching Italian brands and companies – to learn more about fashion brands’ internationalization, branding, consumers and retailing in emerging markets, and innovative business models. Her research also includes the areas of innovation and competitiveness of small- and medium-sized enterprises and revitalization of the U.S. textile and apparel industry. She brings that real-world knowledge and global experience to the classroom every day, she says.

“My favorite part of life is teaching students,” Jin says. “I really love that – it is very fulfilling. And I’m not just teaching from a textbook. I have traveled the world and observed, and I share my experiences and observations with students. They love to hear my stories and observations, and they love to see the photos and videos that I have taken in multiple countries.”

Jin also is writing a unique textbook with the working title, “Global Fashion Business,” commissioned by Bloomsbury publisher and due for completion in 2023, she says.

“I’m devoting my time to this textbook because it’s really hard to find one in global brand management in textiles and apparel,” she says. “Actually, there is no textbook like that available. And I want to write this to benefit students around the world.”

Her specialty being brand management and marketing in the global apparel industry, she also uses her expertise to assist U.S. apparel makers and brands enter new markets abroad, she says. She has received numerous grants from governments around the world to assist in these efforts.

“When these firms want to enter the country, they need to know the market because each country has its own structure, and there are economic, cultural, environmental, legal and other differences,” she says. “And they typically can’t sell the exact same products in other countries, so they may need to modify products. Even color preferences may be different. So my expertise is helping U.S. apparel companies develop marketing programs in other international markets.”

Spreading her wings beyond her teaching role through the ITAA, research efforts, industry outreach and more, Jin said she is thrilled to represent the Wilson College of Textiles.

“I think my presidency at ITAA has helped boost the college’s image and reputation, and we have a large alumni network that also is playing a big role in doing this, too,” she says.