By Whitney Sharp
Two Kwantlen Polytechnic University alumni have turned their cool ideas into even cooler sportswear. Jaymes Williams and Laura Hutchison, grads of the university’s technical apparel design and fashion design and technology degree programs respectively, were commissioned by the Canadian Sport Institute to create cooling vests for Canada’s Wheelchair rugby team, who will compete in the upcoming Paralympic Games in Rio.
The unique design concept began as part of a design engagement course Williams took, where he met with wheelchair rugby athletes in 2014 to better understand the need for garments with improved function and performance. His research led him to the Canadian Sport Institute—an organization that provides Olympic and Paralympic training environments to athletes and coaches.
As athletes with spinal cord injuries struggle to control their body temperature (known as thermoregulation) there is a risk of overheating while playing and competing in sports. While ice vests and other temperature-control clothing does exist, the goal for Williams was to create a design with a greater longevity that would function properly within the constraints of a wheelchair.
KPU’s design programs emphasis collaboration and interdisciplinary relations, so it was a natural fit for Williams to partner with Hutchinson. The duo traveled to the Parapan Am Games in Toronto to further the design concept, advance ideas, meet athletes and watch several games to witness firsthand how their vest would need to perform. Back at home, they quickly got to work.
Now, the pair are preparing to send their designs, eight cooling vests, down south to Rio, where Canada’s wheelchair rugby team is set to compete in mid-September.
The Wilson School of Design at KPU offers seven unique design programs, several of which can’t be found elsewhere. With small class sizes, a strong emphasis on hands-on experience, and numerous opportunities to engage with the industry, graduates are well prepared with technical skills and professional networks to jumpstart their future careers.
To learn more about the Wilson School of Design and everything Kwantlen Polytechnic University has to offer, visit kpu.ca