More Trouble for Lululemon

by Rikki Byrd

There's yet another storm brewing at Lululemon, but this storm comes with a little more peace than before. In recent controversies, the yoga retailer has offended a domestic violence charity. It has been under fire for its pilling pants, which revealed the backside of many of its wearers. Then, there was the founder's, Chip Wilson, crude comments heard far too many times: "Frankly some women's bodies just don't work for it," he told to Bloomberg TV. He later stepped down from the company. Now, the company is under a scornful eye once again with its recently announced partnership with the Dalai Lama. Yes, you read that correctly.

In a post cleverly titled, "Lulu-Lama," The Globe and Mail reports that Lululemon will donate $750,000 to the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. On the surface, donations such as these often render a response of approval for a brand's humility and compassion; however, Lululemon's track record doesn't lend itself to such praise. After announcing the partnership on its blog, the Vancouver-based athletic retailer received mixed comments. One user writes that maybe Paris Hilton would be a better fit:

I’m sorry, but I don’t think the Dalai Lama was the best choice of partnership for your main page. While I do respect his beliefs and values, I don’t necessarily think they match yours. As he believes that luxuries are not necessities, you believe in $100 yoga pants. So what I’ve been thinking is maybe next time you could partner up with someone who better suits you. I was thinking Paris Hilton. I bet she enjoys over spending on your products!!!

Despite the disconnects between the partnership that commenters allude to, the brand takes time to outline the similarities with its manifestos and the values of the Center's initiative. Whatever might come of the partnership and the donation, this isn't the first time that donations have turned out to be controversial. TOMS, focused on its buy-one-give-one model, donates a pair of shoes to a poor country each time a customer buys shoes. But the company has often been criticized of "hurting by helping" by hindering economic communities and not providing the truest needs of economically suffering communities. In 2011, Miley Cyrus called out Urban Outfitters for its CEO's donations to politicians who supported anti-gay marriage. And the product Red campaign adopted by major companies such as Gap, American Express and Motorola, often was chastised for cause-marketing campaigns. For all of these donations, including Lululemon's, transparency seems to be the one thing missing in their efforts to display their compassion.