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Rick Helfenbein Steps Down as AAFA CEO

Rick Helfenbein will step down as president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) on Dec. 31 after four years leading the organization.

Stephen Lamar, currently executive vice president of AAFA, will succeed Helfenbein on Jan. 1.

Gary Simmons, chairman of AAFA, called Helfenbein a “true…advocate for the apparel and footwear industry.”

“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,” Simmons said. “Throughout this time, he has advised the industry with charm and wit.”

Helfenbein has been involved with AAFA for 14 years, his first 10 as a member, including two terms as chairman. During his time as CEO, Helfenbein has served as a vocal advocate for the apparel and footwear industry, including the expansion of the Generalized System of Preferences program to include travel goods, calling out multinational organizations for intellectual property theft, and most recently advocating against tariffs on China as hurtful to the industry and consumer.

“During my time as a member, I learned the essential work we do in Washington and around the world,” Helfenbein said. “It is with this background that I was able to prioritize initiatives and engage with our 1,000-plus brands. I am thrilled that the board has chosen Stephen, whose passion for the industry and understanding of Washington is immeasurable.”

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Lamar has more than 21 years of experience with the association, having served most of this time as executive vice president overseeing lobbying and association activities. Lamar has worked on measures to reduce or eliminate tariffs, support U.S. manufacturing, halt burdensome regulations, expand the industry’s corporate social responsibility efforts and protect intellectual property rights.

“Many in the industry and policymaking community have grown to depend on Stephen’s expertise on how policies impact the industry,” Simmons said. “His foresight of potential risks and opportunities is unmatched. The board is confident that he will bring continued success to the industry in this role.”

Lamar said he was “grateful to Rick for his leadership and partnership through the years.’

“With more than $400 billion in annual U.S. retail sales and an employment footprint of nearly 4 million Americans, apparel and footwear companies are a major part of the U.S. economy,” Lamar said. “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.”