Helfenbein will replace Juanita Duggan, who announced her resignation in November, as of Feb. 15.
“It is a great honor for me to have been selected to lead AAFA,” Helfenbein said. “Having worked in the industry my entire career, I understand the important issues that we face and will continue the fight to expand and protect opportunities for all our member companies.”
The incoming CEO has served as AAFA chairman for the last two years and has been on the board since 2008, in which time he worked to secure passage of the Generalized System of Preferences Update legislation, among other legislative victories.
“When the opportunity came to select a new CEO for AAFA, we wanted a seamless transition and chose someone who could build on the momentum we’ve created,” said Rob DeMartini, incoming chairman of AAFA. “Rick’s leadership, passion, and dedication to AAFA is clear, and that made his appointment an easy and strong choice.”
Helfenbein has spent 16 years as president of U.S. operations for Hong-Kong-based apparel and footwear group Luen Thai and has helped grow the company into the largest publicly listed apparel, accessory and footwear manufacturer on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, making for brands like Polo Ralph Lauren and Coach. Before joining Luen Thai USA, Helfenbein worked in U.S. apparel manufacturing, with American textile mills and on Central American sourcing. Helfenbein holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from The Wharton School and participates annually in the Consortium for Operational Excellence in Retailing (COER) at Wharton and Harvard.
“As a board member, former chairman, and active member of AAFA, I know the caliber of the work at AAFA,” Helfenbein said. “I look forward to working closely with the AAFA team to enhance our leadership position on trade issues, protect our members’ intellectual property, and to be the number one trade organization for our industry, where members can discuss and act on our most important issues.”