Women in Business Q&A: Anna Newton, Apparel Innovation Designer, Bemis Associates

Anna Newton is an Apparel Innovation Designer and Futurist based in Boston, MA. She is an experienced Designer and Product Creator with several patents for Innovations in Performance Apparel. She is particularly passionate about creating concepts that take advantage of advanced bonding techniques that are revolutionizing the construction methods of intimate wear, active wear, loungewear and beachwear. Working with Bemis' Sewfree® product line allows Ana to collaborate with leading brands to create apparel with optimum comfort, better fit and clean contour characteristics.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I supported myself during college as a cosmetologist. It was a wonderful career incorporating incredible combination of creativity, hard work and really fun social interaction. Learning and mastering a trade gave me so much confidence, and a life-long love of hands-on training, practical design applications, and the importance of mentor/mentee relationships.

Just as when I was a senior member of a salon, today in the Bemis design lab I still strive to lead by example, constantly improving my skills, sharing knowledge, learning from my colleagues and remaining open, curious and humble. I call these qualities out specifically because I feel that they are what makes a great designer and leader.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Bemis?
I have been extremely lucky in my apparel design career to have the opportunity to take on roles in a variety of areas including technical design, garment design, advanced innovation, textile development, trim development and product development. As a result, I am able to work with professionals in every area of product creation to help them create innovative solutions with Bemis' Sewfree products.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Bemis?
Bemis has incredible relationships with many of the world's most innovative sportswear brands. It's a rare and valuable opportunity to be able to work with the super talented design teams at each of these brands and experience their passion, focus and culture from the inside. The challenge is that there are literally endless opportunities for innovation when it comes to meeting the challenge of replacing sewing with bonding. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming! Luckily, our whole team works very hard at maintaining focus and tackling projects together. I'm constantly impressed and amazed at how much we achieve and I see the results of our work across the entire industry. It's very gratifying.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Share your unique vision with the world- don't be afraid to put yourself out there and have a point of view. Challenge the status quo. Be bold. Design is a pioneering field- we blaze trails. Have the courage to stand by your work and be proud of it. Women have an inner strength that is immeasurable- remember that there is nothing you can't accomplish if you can envision it.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
You must learn to welcome failure. Remember that most game changing innovations come as a result of mistakes and happy accidents. Every time you experience a failure you will learn a secret to make your designs better- think of it as discovery.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I've been traveling for business for many years, and always try to fit in some time- even a few hours, to explore the local environment and connect with the culture and people. When I return to the same place, I feel more like a local, so I don't feel like I'm leaving my life behind when I'm on the road. Also, like many creatives- I abhor routine. It helps me to stay motivated and inspired to work from different remote locations, and not having to commute into the office every day gives me more time to spend with family and friends. It's a constant challenge to maintain balance in all areas of life, but a very worthwhile endeavor.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The qualities that allow men to attain leadership roles and become successful are seen a negative traits when displayed by women. The work often done by women of recognizing, encouraging and promoting the skills of fellow teammates is essential for the success of organizations but generally overlooked and undervalued.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I love learning from experts in the field, and have been blessed with some terrific mentors throughout my career. I still stay in touch with a number of my former professors and managers for advice and sometimes encouragement! You cannot put a value on having someone who has watched you develop reminding you of past challenges you have overcome. We all need those reminders sometimes!

What do you want Bemis to accomplish in the next year?
Bemis is committed to the vision of replacing sewing with bonding. I want our team to continue to tackle and overcome the barriers inherent in advancing the manufacturing of the Apparel Industry, and I want this to open up possibilities for more creativity for designers, as well as reducing waste.