Rulla Amer, GroupeSTAHL research and development lab manager in Sterling Heights, gives SEEN an inside look at what it’s like testing and creating materials for textiles used in sportswear, how she got into the textile manufacturing industry and her love for fashion.
By Rachel Schostak
1. Tell us about your professional background? I currently serve as the research and development lab manager at GroupeSTAHL Manufacturing and Engineering Center (MEC) Product Testing Lab, where we test and create innovative materials used on various textiles for national sports leagues, athleisure wear, on-demand decoration and more. I received my bachelor of fine arts in fashion from the Academy of Design & Technology and my masters of science in textile engineering from Eastern Michigan University. During college, I studied abroad in London, Paris and India where I worked in textile manufacturing houses for couture fashion. As I was finishing my master’s thesis, GroupeSTAHL reached out about a lab tech position, and over the last four years I’ve had a great experience at GroupeSTAHL and moved up to my current position as lab manager.
2. What does a working day in the life of Rulla look like? My hand-picked team of seven all come with unique backgrounds and have defined roles. We spend time testing how GroupeSTAHL manufactured materials work with different textiles for compatibility, wash durability and most importantly performance to be sure GroupeSTAHL materials offer the highest value for customers. Our research and development team handles the company’s regulatory compliance, experimental design, MEC manufacturing and vendor quality control, product approvals, trend forecasting, internal and external customer service and internal technical training on future products and textiles. I oversee all operations and staff in the R&D lab at GroupeSTAHL MEC.
3. As a manager, what do you feel are the most important qualities necessary to be a successful leader? I think deep knowledge, honesty, creativity, respect and ability to mentor others and make decisions are essential qualities of a leader. It is important to mentor and encourage teams to express their own ideas — the open dialogue allows the team to be a stronger unit and succeed in making GroupeSTAHL an innovator in the decoration and textile industries. Being an open-minded leader garners the best results.
4. Have you always had an interest in the textile segment of fashion and apparel, or was this an interest you discovered during your time at Eastern Michigan University? Without textiles, there would not be fashion. A particular design starts as a vision, but what is most interesting to me is being able to have the ability to develop a textile to execute that exact vision. I love fashion and am fascinated by the science behind it. It is exhilarating for me when fashion, science and art collide. My current role on the GroupeSTAHL R&D team has been a perfect fit to express that.
5. Most rewarding aspect of your position as lab manager at GroupeSTAHL? It is very rewarding to see the team work together to create and continue to innovate amazing products, which end up in people’s homes, major league sports and little league organizations, being seen by many. Fabrics are the biggest mystery of the fashion industry, so customers use GroupeSTAHL as their personal advisory board. It’s so gratifying when my team and I can come up with the perfect material for a specific use.
6. What advice do you have for college students preparing to graduate and enter the world of manufacturing? Always keep an open mind, ask “why?” and be prepared for a lot of hard work. If you think school is demanding, wait until the pressure of the real world begin to take hold. If you have the chance, try to travel before you start. Traveling has helped me step outside my comfort zone and open my eyes to many things beyond what a class or textbook could have ever taught.
7. Who inspires you in the business world? Amancio Ortega (co-founder of Zara), Elon Musk (founder of Space X & Tesla), Tom Ford and Manolo Blahnik.
8. What career goals have you set for yourself for the next five years? I value stability and longevity in a position and team, so in five years I see myself as someone who made a significant impact in the heat transfer industry and growing into a senior executive management position to help further GroupeSTAHL’s growth, global manufacturing and outreach, one garment at a time.
Now on to your style…
9. Three words to describe your personal style? Ever changing, bold and glamorous.
10. Your go-to outfit? Depends on where I’m going. There is a time and place for any outfit.
11. Who inspires your style? All people and cultures of the world.
12. You’re never fully dressed without ___? Earrings.
13. Current song on repeat? I don’t have enough time to repeat. I’m always listening to the next new beat.
Your Local Love List…
14. When you’re not hard at work, what are some of your favorite spots in the Detroit area to relax and have some fun? I practice yoga and meditation to relax and wind down. I love the DIA, Greenfield Village and from time to time watch local theater acts.
15. Favorite local restaurant for lunch or dinner? I’m always exploring…my favorite cuisines are Indian, Mediterranean and Italian.
16. What are some of your favorite places to shop? To me, shopping is a sport. I am always shopping, I like to call it, “retail therapy.” I can start at Neiman Marcus and end up in a vintage resale shop. I always enjoy the hunt.
17. You can never leave home without ___? Mascara.
18. Favorite place to grab a tea or coffee? Starbucks please!
19. Something fascinating others may not know about you? I have been a licensed cosmetologist for 12 years. I work as a contracted stylist at Lulu Beauty Lounge in Ann Arbor. I typically work on destination bridal events, photo shoots and maintain a steady clientele for fashion, hair and makeup services.
20. Favorite quote or words to live by?
- “Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.” – OSHO
- “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin