This week, the leading brain behind athletic-chic brand Lululemon, Chip Wilson, conducted an interview with Bloomberg TV in part to respond to complaints that Lululemon's yoga pants are transparent and are prone to pilling. Earlier this year, Lululemon reviewed objections and recalled 17 percent of the offending product. Instead of claiming responsibility for the product's deficiency, this time, Wilson turned the blame back towards Lululemon's consumers. Wilson defended Lululemon's yoga pants during the interview, in which he stated, "Frankly, some women's bodies just don't actually work for it".
The comment presents a disconnect with the brand's manifesto, which among other things encourages all customers to "Choose a positive thought," and to "Practice yoga so you can remain active...as you age." These words of encouragement are both emblazoned on items of Lululemon clothing and workout gear, and printed on each of their reusable shopping bags. Lululemon has long been a proponent of healthy living and body image messages, yet Wilson's comments seem emblematic of gulf between what they preach and what they practice.
Wilson's interview follows several public image controversies for the brand, including allegations that Lululemon discriminates against plus sized customers by placing larger sizes in a back corner of their stores, and that retail locations do not restock these sizes periodically, making it harder for plus sized customers to find Lululemon products that fit.
Additionally, last week, one of the brand's Dallas locations poked fun at the Family Place charity's discount cards, which benefit the organization's initiatives against domestic violence. The store posted on their window display "We do partners yoga, not partners card," a message which was quickly revoked when the brand began to receive negative feedback.
For a brand that prides itself on social awareness, Lululemon has begun to alienate its customer base. The company would do well to remember that we can't all look like Gwyneth Paltrow, but that doesn't mean we deserve to be treated any differently.