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Texprint 2013: meet the judges, Deanne Schweitzer of Lululemon

18 July 2013 by

Deanne Schweitzer is the SVP of Design and Creation at Lululemon Athletica. The yoga-inspired activewear brand is both a Texprint Foundation Sponsor as well as a Prize Sponsor: Deanne will select one Texprint designer from a short list including Gillian Louise Murphy (Glasgow School of Art), Pepe Lowe (Chelsea College of Art), Luise Martin (Royal College of Art and previously Ecole Duperré, Paris), Cherica Haye (RCA and previously Central St Martins) and Florence Angelica Colson (Leeds College of Art) as the recipient of this year’s Lululemon Athletica Award, which includes a prize of £1,000 plus a three-month paid internship at the brand’s headquarters in Vancouver.

Lululemon was founded in 1998 by Chip Wilson; and the first retail store opened in 2000 in picturesque Kitsilano, Vancouver, and shared its space with a yoga studio. Today the technologically advanced sportswear is sold worldwide online and through its 211stores. The sense of community at the heart of the brand is propelled by in-store yoga classes and by brand ambassadors who spread the Lululemon lifestyle throughout their local communities.  

How did you come to join Lululemon, please tell us about your role?

13 years ago I was the store manager of the first ever Lululemon store and I’m still working here!  Then the head office was located on the store’s top floor, and my colleagues would always find me upstairs giving feedback on what was and wasn’t working! Even though I didn’t have a design background, Lululemon could tell I was very passionate about the brand and I became the head of the product team. Today I am the SVP of Design and Creation, so I’m in charge of the whole creation side of products and this involves the design team, the merchandising team, raw materials and garment development.

Do you enjoy living in Vancouver?

Vancouver is unique, it’s a very metropolitan city with great restaurants and culture, it’s also located right next to the ocean and a 45 minute drive away are some of the world’s best skiing and hiking mountains. There aren’t many places in the world where you can do all three in one day. We absolutely love sushi here; my family and I eat it at least twice a week. I think we own the market in sushi.

Deanne with her daughter in New York

Do you do yoga in the office?

When we were building the brand we often had our meetings in yoga studios, on hikes or on runs. So I think we attracted people that were excited by that lifestyle. It’s important for our staff to do yoga, we support our staff in taking two weekly sessions at nearby studios and we have a studio in our head office.

Do you plan to open any stores in London / the UK? I can see you have a few Lululemon showrooms in London, what goes on there?

When we open a showroom somewhere we are showing that we ultimately want to open a store there. We are planning on opening a store in London in the very near future and we regularly open in key areas that attract athletic, active and (hopefully) stylish guests.

This will be the second year of the Lululemon Texprint Award, how did you find working with Texprint alumni Manri Kishimoto and Sophie Reeves in the studio?

Unbelievable, they were such a pleasure to have. I think they were both really grateful for the experience so it really was a win-win situation. Having one designer from a weave background and another coming from print was a great balance and brought different perspectives into the print team which we loved. Sophie had such a good experience working with us that she is now applying to work in the Lululemon London showroom.

Lululemon’s manifesto is full of inspirational mottos such as ‘what you do to the earth, you do to yourself’. What responsibility do you think textile designers have in using environmentally-friendly textiles and techniques?

It’s really important to design something that will live in somebody’s wardrobe for a long time. I’m not a big believer in fast fashion or buying something that will end up in the garbage heap in 12 months’ time.

Lululemon has been at the forefront of technologically advanced textiles. What should we expect to see next?

Well I think the biggest trend for us now is smart textiles, technological advances mean that we are asking our apparel to do a lot more for us. We are really excited about apparel that can take somebody from day to night seamlessly.

How important is it for you to support the next generation of textile designers?

Some new designers come out of school and enter companies where they might get stifled. The Lululemon organisation makes sure to put designers into a position to be listened to and to have an impact. We are very open to be shown new ways of doing things - we are open to fresh new ideas. I truly believe that they are the voice of the future. 

Deanne talking with knit designer Gillian Louise Murphy

Judging panel, from left: designer Madeleine Press, Emma Kidd of Selfridges, Deanne, and style journalist Tamsin Blanchard

All the designers with the judges

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