Alumna using textile engineering skills in the luxury sportswear industry
As Peter Millar’s line review director, two-time graduate Caroline Ellington thanks the Wilson College of Textiles for the holistic knowledge she gained about the textile industry and the connections made along the way.
As a Park Scholar and student-athlete on the varsity women’s golf team, Wilson College of Textiles alumna Caroline Ellington always had an affinity for applying herself on and off the course. Through textile engineering, she found a way to combine her many passions and interests.
“I’ve always been interested in performance apparel, the luxury sector, and how that intersects with athletics, especially golf,” she says. “I like approaching things from a more pragmatic point of view, so that led me to go down the engineering path. Through the engineering curriculum, I learned about fibers, yarns, fabrics, and garments from the molecular structure up; which gave me a robust technical understanding of material attributes and apparel construction.”
A curiosity about fiber properties and the construction of athletic garments led her to pursue an Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s in Textile Engineering (ABM), an internship and a career of nine years and counting with Raleigh-based luxury golf and lifestyle brand Peter Millar. Experiences at the Wilson College teed her up for a fulfilling career.
“I am thankful to have had some top-notch professors and instructors that I’m still in touch with today. The faculty at the college is part of what makes it so special, and that allows students to truly excel.”
New perspectives abroad
Though she already had a unique perspective due to her involvement in athletics, Ellington was driven to expand upon her in-class instruction. She participated in research, study abroad and internships through Wilson College connections.
Working as a summer intern at RWTH Aachen University’s Textile Institute in Germany, Ellington researched naturally based, biodegradable composites using flax fiber and polylactic acid (PLA) — a material commonly used for compostable cutlery. Through this research, she studied the process of spinning PLA into fibers and yarns and manipulating natural materials to be as strong as petrol-based plastics.
“I enjoyed approaching composites from the sustainability angle,” Ellington recalls. “The global textile industry takes such a toll on the environment, but this experience really opened my eyes to what else might be possible in the world of biosynthetics.”
“The faculty at the college is part of what makes it so special, and that allows students to truly excel.”
Following her internship abroad, Ellington participated in an interdisciplinary immersion program in Vietnam studying global supply chains. She toured multiple factories and studied various segments of the supply chain in depth, making connections to the curriculum in real-time.
“It was amazing and incredibly insightful for me to be able to actually go to these factories. I got to see up close and personal how products are made.”
Furthering education and exploring interests
At the conclusion of her four years in undergrad, an extra year of golf eligibility encouraged Ellington to take part in ABM. This program allows students to take classes that count towards their undergraduate and graduate degrees, completing both in only five years.
The ABM courses allowed Ellington the opportunity to explore other interests within the industry, especially those outside the realm of technical classes she was used to.
“My interest bridged into apparel, fashion and brands,” she says. “I loved the opportunity to be able to do some brand management, luxury fashion and textile work, and use those credits to compliment my more technical background.”
Teeing up for her career
Ellington began her time at Peter Millar as an intern during the golf off-season, where she assisted the women’s designer with photoshoots and special projects. Following graduation, Ellington began working full-time at Peter Millar, where she has held many positions. Currently working as the line review director directly alongside the company’s chief creative officer and design team, she wears many hats.
“It’s part project management with more strategic consideration,” she describes. “I’m in this hub that’s situated on the design team with product, but I’m working with design, development, merchandising, planning, production, marketing and digital marketing. I’m centrally located and act as a liaison with all the other departments to make sure that we’re aligned strategically.”
One perk of the job for this former student-athlete is being surrounded by fellow members of the Wolfpack. About 10 of the 20 people on her team alone are also Wilson College alumni.
Looking forward and giving back
Hungry for more formal business knowledge, Ellington is currently completing a Master’s in Business Administration through the Jenkins MBA Program in the Poole College of Management. She is set to become a three-time NC State graduate in the spring.
Her advice for current textile engineering students is to be open to nontraditional opportunities and applications.
“Whatever you’re interested in, just pursue that. You will be able to find a way to apply your knowledge,” she advises. “Wilson College didn’t just prepare us technically, but it also helped make us better all-around thinkers and problem-solvers; skills that are universally applicable in any discipline”
This post was originally published in Wilson College of Textiles News.