AAFA President and CEO Rick Helfenbein to Step Down

The American Apparel and Footwear Association has announced the exit of Rick Helfenbein.

The trade group’s president and CEO is stepping down from his role on Dec. 31 and  current EVP Stephen Lamar will take the top post at the start of 2020. (According to FN’s sister publication WWD, Helfenbein will remain as a consultant until early next year to ensure a smooth transition.)

Helfenbein has been a member of the AAFA for a decade and worked with the organization for nearly 15 years — including two years as chairman of the board of directors and four years at the helm. During his time as chief, he has helped rebrand the trade group and revitalize the annual American Image Awards as well as been a vocal advocate for issues within the apparel and footwear industries, including the impact of President Donald Trump’s tariffs.

“Rick has led us through some of the most disruptive periods in recent memory — from the disastrous border adjustment tax to today’s trade war with one of our most important trading partners,” said chairman Gary Simmons. “Throughout this time, he has advised the industry with charm and wit. At the same time, we are very excited to promote Stephen Lamar… His foresight of potential risks and opportunities is unmatched.”

Helfenbein added, “I am thrilled that the board has chosen Stephen, whose passion for the industry and understanding of Washington is immeasurable.”

Lamar has more than 21 years of experience with the AAFA and spent most of that time as EVP, overseeing lobbying and other association activities. He has worked to reduce or eliminate duties on clothing and footwear, support manufacturing in the United States, expand the industry’s corporate social responsibility efforts and protect intellectual property rights.

“With more than $400 billion in annual U.S. retail sales and an employment footprint of nearly four million Americans, apparel and footwear companies are a major part of the U.S. economy,” Lamar added. “I look forward to working with our team in Washington — and our members throughout the country — to achieve future wins and ensure that this industry can continue to grow and thrive.”

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