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Lululemon partners on new $36-million Kwantlen design school

Chip Wilson of LuluLemon, speaks at the Richmond campus of Kwantlen Polytechnic University where a new $36 million design facility/program will be built, including $12 million from Lululemon - Martin van den Hemel photo
Chip Wilson of LuluLemon, speaks at the Richmond campus of Kwantlen Polytechnic University where a new $36 million design facility/program will be built, including $12 million from Lululemon
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

Lululemon founders Shannon and Chip Wilson are partnering with the province and Kwantlen Polytechnic University to build a new $36-million school of design in Richmond.

Announced Friday morning at Kwantlen's Richmond campus, the partnership will expand Kwantlen's capacity for design students by 57 per cent and offer new programs to fashion students.

"This is the future of apparel in the world, and Vancouver has the ability to be the centre for the world," said Chip Wilson at the announcement.

The province and Kwantlen are contributing $12 million each, while the Wilsons will invest $8 million and Lululemon Athletica will add another $4 million.

The school—the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design—is expected to break ground in the fall of 2013 and be ready for the first students in September 2015. Planned is a new building on Kwantlen's Lansdowne Road site, providing an additional 52,740-square feet of space to the 204,000-square-foot campus.

Specifics of the building and its design weren't yet available, according to Kwantlen spokesperson Joanne Saunders.

The school is expected to accommodate 651 students—both full-time and part-time—and include new teaching studios, testing and prototyping labs, a materials research centre and gallery space for student exhibitions and curated shows.

A new baccalaureate diploma in technical apparel will be offered to provide training for students eyeing careers in the performance and technical apparel and product sectors.

Deanne Schweitzer, Lululemon's head of design, said the company hired its first designer from Kwantlen. That made her realize the quality of students coming out of Richmond.

"We've never looked back. We love working with Kwantlen. This partnership with Kwantlen and the province allows us to take it to the next level."

Kwantlen president Alan Davis said the school is part of Kwantlen's vision to be Canada's leading polytechnic university.

"We intend to make you and the people of B.C. very proud and to live up to the confidence you've placed in us," he told project partners.

Once the new school has opened, Kwantlen will re-purpose the current design facilities at the Richmond campus to create new areas for the Faculty of Business and to meet growing international student demand.

Richmond is home to one of four Kwantlen campuses in Metro Vancouver.

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