Poor word choice should not affect accepting cash

KPU should keep Chip and Shannon Wilson’s $12-million investment amidst controversy.

By Sana Sohel
[contributor]

At the end of 2013, amidst public outcry, Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon, blatantly called “some women’s bodies” unfit for the company’s popular yoga pants. Despite his questionable morals, Kwantlen Polytechnic University is still accepting his contribution to the new school of design. And why shouldn’t it? If a company is openly extending its arms to help support the growing number of students at KPU, the university should not turn the generous donation down. Wilson’s harsh remarks should be of no concern to the architects building the school.

The Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design, a 4,900-square metre facility at KPU’s Richmond campus began construction in December 2013. The building will include teaching studios, testing and prototype labs, student study spaces, a materials research center and gallery space. It is a $36-million project with Chip and Shannon Wilson of Lululemon Athletica contributing $8 million to the cause, and their company pitching in another $4 million. Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the province of B.C. are the two other investors in the project.

While all that is perfect, the recent controversy surrounding Chip and Shannon cannot be ignored. In an interview on Bloomberg TV’s Street Smart program, Chip Wilson blatantly stated, “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for [the pants] … It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there.”

Wilson’s comments came after the Canadian-based company was trying to bounce back following a debacle in March 2013 that forced Lululemon to pull nearly 17 per cent of its popular black Luon pants from the store, showrooms and website after consumers complained the pants were too sheer. Wilson also stated in other interviews that the pants become see-through when women buy sizes that are too small for them. This caused a huge uproar amongst the company’s followers, and Wilson has since resigned as chairperson of the company.

Chip and Shannon Wilson envision a company that “elevates the world from mediocrity to greatness,” writes Jessica Marati, a sustainable style blogger for the Huffington Post. Chip Wilson asserts, “Mediocrity is following a predetermined and unfulfilling path,” and it is as “close the bottom as it is the top.” In contrast, he says, “Greatness is demanding the company you work for to make the best products and be uncompromising in its promise to its customers.” Chip Wilson is known for saying the wrong things at the wrong times, but he is a hard-working individual and has a strong vision for his company.

With a vision that has built a company from the ground up, it will be interesting to see how the new School of Design turns out in 2015. While Chip and Shannon Wilson may be trying to raise their company’s shares up again, KPU has lined up some strong, dedicated and hardworking investors. The design school is expected to help meet predicted labour market demands for apparel designers in B.C. and in an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Shannon Wilson expressed that “being in the technical clothing business, [Chip and I] saw a real opportunity for British Columbia to be the best in the world in training designers.”

Chip and Shannon Wilson’s donation is going to help build a renowned institution for the school of design and fashion. While Chip may say some morally questionable things, the bottom line is that their contribution is going to help achieve the recognition KPU has been so desperately seeking.

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson announces the creation of the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. (Photo courtesy BC government)

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