As a former Vancouverite and total Lululemon fan-girl, I was over the moon to receive the invite to the Artistry in Motion event at the Oh Happy Day studio in San Francisco, to celebrate the launch of Lululemon’s Fall ’16 collection, featuring unique dying techniques and jacquard fabrics. Ahead of the event, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lululemon designer Florence Colson to chat about the new Fall’16 line up and shibori dying techniques. Um, dream job anyone?
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What is your background, and how did you get into design with Lululemon?
Florence Colson: My background is rooted in illustration and hand printing techniques. My love for hand crafting my designs evolved during my bachelors degree in Printed Textiles & Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art, UK. I specialized in print intended for fashion. Lululemon found me when I was exhibiting in Paris, as part of a graduate programme. After some contract projects, and a meeting with SVP Lee Holman & my now art director Anoosha Foroughi, I was all of a sudden moving to Vancouver to start at Lululemon full time and I love it!
That sounds like it was meant to be. What was the inspiration for the shibori dyeing that we see in the Fall’16 line?
FC: The creative direction for Fall 2016 was “sartorial performance” – which we defined as “the function and technicality of activewear fused with the detailing + fabrications of men’s bespoke, elegance and the craftsmanship of haute couture”. Additionally, “distorted tradition” was the inspiration for our print and textures. The intention with the shibori dyeing was to bring craft into the product, while eliminating ‘grin through’ [occurs when one prints stretchy fabric, and the dye does not penetrate through, resulting showing of the unprinted fibers beneath when the fabric is stretched].
This process was heavily influenced by traditional dyeing techniques. To explore these processes while keeping functionality of the garments, we partnered with with a factory to individually dye the garments. By doing this, 100% penetration of the dye is achieved, eliminating the grin through problem and allowing for subtle and unique dye color application.
Lululemon still has some of the best quality of fabrics that I have tested. I have some leggings that are 6 years old, and they are still going strong. This seems amazing to me – does Lululemon keep tabs on it’s competitors to make sure it’s fabrics are always of the best quality?
FC: It’s always important to be aware of what’s happening in the market. Since we consider ourselves the leader in the market, we’re not looking to follow anyone’s lead. We are constantly innovating with a focus on an amazing guest experience.
How does Lululemon collect customer feedback on it’s designs?
FC: In the simplest and most effective form! We obtain direct feedback from our guests! We go out and talk with them, and have a conversation about their product likes and dislikes. The beauty in this process is that we identify problems that we then take away, and solve for our guest. We want our guests to feel free when she/he wears lululemon and focus on her/his athletic practice. His and her attire is there to functionally solve and support the sweatiest pursuits, while feeling strong and beautiful. Things like anti-stink, media storage, and performance of the garment all stem from guest feedback
I love details like cut-outs near the ankles of my tights, and mesh. Are there plans to have more items like this in the future, or are they more seasonal to spring and summer?
FC: I also love the unique details that lululemon provides through design elements such as mesh panelling. Stay tuned for a lot of new, exciting craft in our product!
Are there certain designs that do better in Canada vs. the US?
FC: Yes. Our guests in Canada and the US have different preferences. It’s not across the board, but there are certain pieces that either do better in Canada or do better in the US.
What are some upcoming trends that you’re able to share?
FC: …. you’ll have to wait & see !
I’m looking forward to finding out! What is the best part about your job as a designer?
FC: I get to sit and create prints nearly all day, everyday. It is literally my dream job and has been since I can remember. Also, I enjoy being part of a team that inspires me constantly, and given the opportunity to travel. I am eternally grateful!
What is your favorite Lululemon design?
FC: There is always something new to love, but Fall 2016 was a ‘season of firsts’ in terms of craftsmanship and print/colour/texture creation. We wanted to introduce innovative print techniques and washes that are new to our guest, and also reinvent our classic jacquards.
I personally love the Florence digital engineer on nulux – the fabric is amazing and the print quality is beautiful. Knowing the hours that went into this hand drawn and digitally engineered print across multiple people and teams makes it very special. I also think that the new jacquards and allover prints being released for Fall 2016 are exceptional, each one of these have a unique story behind them, and truly feels like we are incorporating craft into our designs.
What is the most common demographic you design for (i.e. the person who does a ton of ClassPass cross training, versus the yogi?)
FC: Yoga is at our core, our guest loves diversity in her/his workouts. Our biggest focus when collaborating with design on product is the concept of quality and no distractions, no matter what the activity.