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Looking for Career Advice? Words of Wisdom from Apparel industry vet LaJean Lawson

Updated: Jan 26

Lajeans Top Career Tips

Lajean Lawson is the world’s leading expert in sports bra science and design. Her career has spanned over 3 decades of consulting, biomechanical research, prototyping, and development, and over the years she’s learned a few life lessons. As part of the 40th birthday of the Jogbra, the first commercial sports bra, we thought we’d ask a few questions of the woman whose sports bra career has lasted nearly as long. LaJean offers tips for obtaining skills that can get you into the apparel science game and help keep you there!

You’ve had an amazing career in research and development for sports apparel and wearable technology. What skills do you feel are necessary for your type of career?

A really strong sense of curiosity and tenaciousness about problem-solving.

A strong background in all things apparel—design, development, production, marketing, and consumer behavior.

Solid science background in areas that help to understand how the body moves and works.

Good writing skills—I spend as much (or more) time writing to communicate valuable information as anything else.

Basic drawing skills to communicate ideas.

Skills as a ‘tinkerer’ to be able to prototype stuff: running a drill and a Dremel tool, cutting and joining plastics and all kinds of materials; soldering electronics; a wide range of construction methods besides sewing (gluing, laminating, riveting, etc) and skill in sewing unusual fabrics. My dad taught me a lot, and I’ve self-taught much more.

A strong marketing sense.

Public speaking skills, including the ability to think quickly in stressful media situations! What additional advice would you give someone entering into the apparel field, or wanting to get into a similar type of work?

Start with a really solid academic program that teaches you history, art, culture, writing, and ‘thinking’ skills in addition to all aspects of apparel design, development, and marketing. Courses that give you a sense of the political, artistic, and cultural past are a rich source of inspiration about design and human behavior and how it evolves. Cultivating analytic skills helps you evaluate strategy and the soundness of your ideas, and writing/speaking expertise will give you the power and ability to communicate them.

Have a really strong personal passion for the apparel category you work in. Me, as an enthusiastic life-long athlete I quickly encountered problems with sports bras that propelled me into studying them seriously so all women could have better bras and enjoy all the considerable mental, physical and emotional benefits of working out with less discomfort. That still motivates and drives me.

Find mentors to guide, inspire and challenge you. Connect with industry groups and apparel/design alumni groups from your college/university. Network, network, network!

Learn as much as you can from working within a larger company before going out on your own—make your mistakes and gain your insights on their dollar!

Really go the extra mile in developing a compelling portfolio/resume. Find industry pros willing to seriously critique and help you refine and improve it.

Thank you LaJean for more words of wisdom! Thank you, readers, for stopping by!


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