Supima, the U.S.-grown pima cotton brand, announced Monday that its president and CEO, Jesse Curlee, is retiring on Dec. 31 after more than 36 years in the role.
Marc Lewkowitz, the current executive vice president, has been named as his successor, effective Jan. 1, 2016.
Curlee joined Supima in October 1979 as general manager, back when American pima cotton production averaged around 75,000 bales annually. He was promoted to president and CEO in 1981. Now, as his time at the helm winds down, annual production has reached more than 850,000 bales, 90 percent of which is from California.
Curlee is credited with expanding Supima globally by starting a licensing program for customers who wanted to use the name. Japan was the first licensee in the ‘80s and today Supima has more than 370 licensees in 39 countries, spanning spinners, knitters and weavers to manufacturers, brands and retailers.
During his tenure he also introduced the brand to the world of high fashion: The Supima Design Competition and runway show takes place each year in New York during fashion week.
“On behalf of the entire membership, staff and Supima Board of Directors, we sincerely thank Jesse for his valuable contributions, passionate leadership and dedication to the American Pima cotton industry,” said Keith B. Deputy, Supima’s chairman, in a statement, going on to call Curlee “a strong leader and advocate for Supima” who has “made a tremendous impact in the promotion and advancement of Supima cotton.”
It sounds like his duties will be in good hands: Lewkowitz has been with Supima for more than 12 years, working closely with Curlee in developing the brand and growing the licensing program.