Monica Warsaw ’12 Named a Distinguished Young Alumni Award Recipient
By Kamilah Heslop
Recently, when Monica Warsaw was asked to define herself in four words, she thoughtfully chose the following: innovator, woman, mother and leader.
One meaningful way that she’s leading within the textile industry is through her dedication to the establishment of a critical work-life balance for working parents. The mother of one’s advocacy, which centers on promoting paid parental leave, is encouraging a change in the landscape for leaders with children who come after her.
“Finding a balance between parenting and working can be difficult for female leaders,” Warsaw says. “When an organization is able to connect you with an opportunity that you love along with a positive work-life balance, it creates a space for you to be the most successful version of yourself.”
She credits her world-class education from the Wilson College of Textiles and experience as president of the Phi Psi Textile Fraternity for giving her a strong foundation to now lead with integrity, empathy and resilience.
Recognized for her leadership and textiles expertise
Today, she is proud to serve as the senior technical developer at Lunya, a rest wear company. On a mission to elevate rest, Lunya makes considered rest wear that feels as good in bed as it looks.
“I love our washable silk products, and I’m inspired creatively in this role,” Warsaw shares. “Lunya is aligned with my personal values and ethos. It’s nice to see all of the pieces fall into place. I have the technical knowledge to be successful and the drive to become even more passionate about what the brand is creating.”
One area within the textile industry that especially interests Warsaw is the integration of technology into the apparel creation process. Her technical design and product construction expertise have empowered her to further her exploration of the 3D garment simulation and automation space. This will lead to significant financial gains and a time reduction in the clothing development process.
In recognition of Warsaw’s professional achievements, community involvement and alignment with the college’s core values, she was named the recipient of a Wilson College of Textiles 2023 Distinguished Young Alumni Award.
Established by the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council (DYALC), the Distinguished Young Alumni Awards program recognizes graduates under the age of 40 who have made significant contributions to the textile industry and their communities. The DYALC works to promote the Wilson College of Textiles and the college’s fundraising arm, the North Carolina Textile Foundation, and foster engagement among young alumni.
Committed to Wilson for life
Warsaw’s journey to the Wilson College of Textiles began in 2008 when she became one of only ten students selected to receive a Centennial Scholarship.
The college’s top scholarship, valued at up to $95,500, provided her with full-tuition assistance and allowed her to focus solely on her educational pursuits. During Warsaw’s junior year, she used her Centennial Scholarship’s enrichment funding to study abroad at the University of Manchester.
While at NC State, Warsaw immediately connected with the college’s faculty members, especially Distinguished Professor Cynthia Istook.
“She will always have a special place in my heart,” Warsaw says. “This wasn’t just a job for Dr. Istook. She was instrumental in inspiring students, myself included, to create and design. She did so much more than her job description entailed to make our experience memorable.”
In 2012, Warsaw crossed the stage to earn her bachelor’s degree in fashion and textile management with a concentration in fashion development and product design. From there, she took her talents to Ventura, California, to work as a product developer at Patagonia.
However, her connection to the Wilson College of Textiles didn’t end when she left Raleigh.
Warsaw became an inaugural member of the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council (DYALC) in 2017. Since then, she’s helped encourage recent graduates to maintain and strengthen their connection with the Wilson College of Textiles.
“We realized that alumni who have been in the workplace a relatively short time would have a critical perspective on how their college could be improved to support future young alumni like them,” David Hinks, dean of the Wilson College of Textiles, says. “The DYALC’s establishment was inspired by the positive energy of recent graduates, like Monica, and their interest in staying engaged with our college.”
Within her three years on council, Warsaw was proud to see the DYALC expand from only 12 members to 23, including two student representatives. Her leadership within the DYALC also connected Warsaw to the North Carolina Textile Foundation, which serves as the philanthropic arm of the college.
Extraordinarily, the DYALC has helped the foundation increase its under-40 donors by 80 percent through annual support of the university’s Day of Giving and endowed gifts. In turn, Warsaw and her husband have also chosen to provide support for the Wilson College.
“By going through the Centennial Scholarship process, I understand the value and impact of this incredible award,” she explains. “When I had the financial means to give back, I chose to do so because the Centennial Scholarship program will always be important to me.”
Warsaw is inspired by the gifts that fellow members of the Wilson College community have made as well.
“It’s exciting to see how much our college has blossomed, especially with the transformational gift from the Wilson family and so many other donations from supporters.”
In addition to the pride she feels when witnessing the college’s growth, Warsaw is in awe of the next generation of textile leaders who call the Wilson College of Textiles home. When asked her advice for current students, she shared this critical nugget: “Don’t pigeonhole yourself.”
“While in school, it’s easy to have your eye on a specific goal or one type of company,” she explains. “Before working for Patagonia, I wouldn’t have imagined that it would be the organization that set my career up for success or allow me to work with some of the top factories in the world. From there, I was able to grow in my career and land a unique position at Lunya. I hope students will open themselves up to all professional experiences, even if those roles don’t necessarily meet their ideal job descriptions.”