Apparel Designer at REI Inc.
Class of 2011, Apparel Design major
If you’ve ever bought REI apparel in preparation for your latest outdoor excursion, you may have Neenah Funk Maier to thank. When she’s not in the studio at REI headquarters in Kent sorting through fabrics, colors, styles, and fits, she and her team are outdoors testing their prototypes. Or she’s exploring tradeshows across the country to stay up on the latest cultural trends and fashion designs. Or she’s overseas checking out factories to work on the manufacturability of new designs.
Clearly, Maier is always on the move. Thankfully her education through the fashion apparel program at SPU prepared her for this. Jaeil Lee, professor of clothing and textiles, particularly guided Maier in her pursuits. Maier recalls Lee consistently encouraging her to pursue mentorships and internships in the Seattle apparel industry, advice that would prove salient when she eventually landed a job at REI. Her workload was rigorous, taking on the demands of balancing her apparel classes with her foundational classes. But she says all of that ended up being a huge asset in her career.
“Apparel designers are responsible for nearly every aspect that goes into each garment within an entire collection, so there are always so many moving pieces,” Maier says. “I’m glad that my time as SPU ramped up my capacity and skillset to the fast pace of real industry work.”
Now Maier finds herself on the other side of the desk, with professors giving out her name to current apparel students for guidance. Her main advice? Keep asking people for advice. And also to remember to “travel, eat well, and dress well.”
— Dusty Henry
How does your time at SPU connect to what you’re doing today?
At SPU, I learned the importance of time management, priorities, and communication when multi-tasking — all of which are relevant in my current job. Apparel designers are responsible for nearly every aspect that goes into each garment within an entire collection, so there are always so many moving pieces. I’m glad that my time as SPU ramped up my capacity and skill set to the face pace of real industry work.
Which SPU faculty or staff member made a difference in your education?
Dr. Jaeil Lee in the Apparel Department was very encouraging and her industry experience was very inspiring. She always encouraged me to pursue internships and mentorships in the Seattle apparel industry, which proved invaluable.
What advice would you give to current SPU students?
Submit your will to the Lord. Pursue your dreams. Do not let fear of the unknown hold you back. Seek advice from people doing what you want to be doing. Travel. Eat well. Dress well.