I've had an overwhelming response this past week to my article, Chip Wilson Can Kiss My Fat Yoga Ass: A Lululemon Ambassador Speaks Out. I spoke up about what I had been thinking for a while, and apparently quite a few others had been thinking the same thing. I've heard from hundreds of people who have expressed gratitude for calling bullshit on Lulu's behavior and who will be joining the #dropluludrive and donating their old luon to a good cause. The Twitter-verse was all atwitter with retweets and posts cheering the sentiment of the article:
Stop buying Lululemon.
Interestingly, their stock prices fell last week. Their fourth quarter earnings are projected to be down. I can't say I'm surprised about that news. But let's be clear about the rest of the news from last week, namely:
Chip Wilson is not resigning. He's simply stepping down as chairman of the board. This will happen, oh, sometime in the next six months. And, he will retain a seat on the board. And, he remains Lululemon's largest shareholder. As the largest shareholder, he will still have a say in how the company is run. After all, a corporation's number one responsibility is to make money for its shareholders.
Though Lululemon has hired a new CEO, Laurent Potdevin, to start in January, I'm wondering if the tail won't still be wagging the dog? Not to mention the fact that many of Lululemon's snafu's as of late have not been exclusively fueled by Chip Wilson.
Recently, when I was teaching at a Yoga Journal Conference, a gift bag appeared in my room from the Lululemon contingency which dominated the marketplace at the conference. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was a bag touting the sanskrit word, brahmacharya, which means abstinence or sexual responsibility... and the words were portrayed with Oreos, hypodermic needles, condoms and Twizzlers. Seriously, Lululemon? I echo fellow Huffington Post writer, Carolyn Gregoire, who nails it when she asks, "What the f*ck was Lululemon thinking?"
I left the bag in the room. No way would I carry that around.
But, then, this weekend, in the halls of a prominent yoga studio in New York City -- where a few blocks away, uncompensated yogis were practicing in the windows of a Lululemon storefront to get holiday shoppers to stop in -- people stopped me with their reactions to the article and told me their stories. One fellow yoga teacher told me about a secret link she'd received to buy "black market Lululemon" straight from China. She got her Wunder Unders in the mail at a low price of $20, and then realized this was because the company -- who she thought had their products made in Canada -- manufactured their clothing in sweatshops while still charging sky-high prices.
But the shadiness doesn't stop there.
This weekend, at a holiday party, I was approached by a former Lululemon employee who revealed some pretty shocking things about what it was like to work for the company. She said that she could only stand to work there for three months because she was so disturbed by the "insistence on marketing only to the company "muse" -- defined as young, thin, rich women and straight, wealthy, butch men." Apparently her suggestion to "appeal to non-20-something females and/or gay males was shot down immediately." She was told that they weren't Lulu's "guest." With a corporate aim toward such a narrow demographic, it seems less of a surprise that Chip Wilson would make a comment about the size of women's thighs.
For a company whose vision is "to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness," I'd say they need to start doing a hell of a lot better job.
Can the new CEO do it with Chip Wilson still in the background pulling the strings?
I'd like to ask him.
Laurent Potdevin, please reach out to me. In the spirit of holding Lululemon accountable for trying to represent the values of the yoga community, I have some questions for you.
You know where to find me.