The Start-up Lab

Success stories

Photograph of Tom Waller

© lululemon athletica

lululemon athletica

Tom Waller

Tom Waller likes to question and challenge accepted ways of doing things, and applies this ethos to his work – with great success.

Never be afraid to question accepted models. Disrupting the norm and developing a new approach is how we innovate and create a new future.

Having completed his PhD in 2004, he was appointed as Head of R&D at Loughborough spin-out company Progressive Sports Technologies which offers a range of testing and development services to global sports brands.

In 2008, he moved to Speedo. As Head of Aqualab – the company’s global R&D and innovation facility – he led new product and fabric development for all Olympic elite swimming projects.

Over the years, his innovative approach has been regularly tested on the world stage – during soccer and rugby World Cup tournaments, as well as by the NBA and British Triathlon, Cycling and Paralympic teams.

Now, as Senior Vice President of Whitespace™ at Vancouver-based athletic apparel company lululemon athletica, Tom heads up a team of 30 creative innovators and R&D experts spanning the fields of science, technology, engineering and materials with a common focus of inventing the company’s product future.

While innovation has always been core to lululemon, the structure and approach of the Whitespace™ team is Tom’s brainchild and even its nomenclature reflects his preference for empirical design that starts with a blank canvas.

Working cross-functionally with lululemon’s design team and community network of athlete and yogi ambassadors, Whitespace™ is integral to the development of innovative new fabrics and designs to support an individual’s optimal athletic performance.

It is a holistic approach that explores how clothing makes the wearer feel and how this impacts their performance potential – the belief being that when a person feels good, they perform to their true potential.

This approach has led Tom and his team to investigate a range of performance-related and fundamental garment characteristics including tactile qualities, how fabric travels with or across the skin as the body moves, and even the noise it makes in response to movement.

Tom believes that the emotional impact of these elements can inhibit or boost performance – and he and his team endeavour to reduce the negative consequences of these “critical attributes”.

When not disrupting accepted practice to developing unique sportswear and equipment, Tom is a keen sportsman enjoying and enduring yoga, adventure racing and triathlon.