Jesse Curlee to Retire from Supima

Jesse Curlee, who has had a career in the cotton industry for more than 35 years, announced he will retire as president and chief executive of Supima, a premium American cotton brand, at the end of this year.

Replacing him will be Marc Lewkowitz, currently Supima’s executive vice president, who has been with the organization for 12 years.

The name Supima—an abbreviation for Superior Pima—is a licensed trademark for extra long-staple cotton used by more than 300 mills, textile and clothing makers, and retailers who are certified to be using Supima cotton supplied by about 500 growers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Curlee began his career with Phoenix-based Supima in October of 1979 as general manager. In 1981 he was named president and chief executive.

Since then, American Pima cotton production rose from an annual average of 75,000 bales to more than 850,000 bales. He also worked to expand production to California in the late 1980s, where today more than 90 percent of American Pima cotton is produced.

During his career with Supima, Curlee promoted the introduction of Supima to the fashion industry with the start of its now-recognized and respected annual Supima Design Competition and fashion runway show during Fashion Week in New York.

Under Curlee’s leadership, Supima began a licensing program for customers wanting to use the Supima name. Japan was the first to license the use of Supima in the 1980s. Supima now licenses the name and trademark worldwide to spinners, knitters, weavers, manufacturers, brands and retailers with over 370 licensees in 39 countries.