December 1, 2008

Excuse Me, Lululemon, Your Tag Is Sticking Out. ~via Sarah Miller [corporate yoga, corporate businesses, corrupt spirituality]

Photo: lululemon.

By Sarah Miller.

I’m not against corporations, as a rule. But I do seem to be against everything they stand for. Even with best intentions in mind, they rarely measure up.

It’s also true that I am an idealist. I expect moral behavior—do the right thing—from all. That leaves me, shall we say, disgruntled, disappointed and disgusted much of the time.

For the last year and a half, I’ve worked for lululemon (yes, they don’t capitalize the “L”). With that behind me now (as of today!), I indeed feel as though I’ve wasted a good chunk of my last year or so learning things I already knew that I knew. Wow. That alone makes me upset. That is compounded by the fact that I feel like I just woke up and realized that I’m a sell out. [Sigh] I have essentially gone against everything that I feel is truth—and sold it as a nifty little black Groove Pant and Razzmatazz Deep V Tank.

While it may not be news to elephant readers, spirituality has now gone corporate. These days, in order to “practice yoga,” you need a new mat and a stretchy lululemon outfit to match!

Yoga may be watered down in its modern, Western approach—but the spirituality can’t be completely extracted and sold because…truth is inviolable, right?

I remember taking a college course called the “McDonaldsization of Society” which, in my mind, sums it all up quite nicely. People want what is known and, more and more, shun anything they are unfamiliar with or doesn’t fit with their “mainstream” reality. Whether it’s the golden arches or a scuba hoody with the Lulu logo plastered on it, brand loyalty has numbed our senses.

These companies that claim they are the new model of sustainable, green ingenuity and have responsible practices, who think about their workers and have somehow vastly improved the corporate business model, all still have a bottomline. If profits aren’t achieved, do they still care about their workers? Their goals? Their salaries? Their total impact to the planet? Probably not.

A company as new as Lululemon has a lot to learn—and yet other companies are learning a lot from this little Vancouver company that has exploded in just over ten years. A year ago they went public. Translation: we want to make even more money, even faster, and in order to do that, we need more money.

They have a nifty manifesto and synthetic, reusable bags that give a nod to an eco-savvy attitude. They boast team building and goal setting as part of their business model. They hire yogis and “athletes,” attractive individuals who look good in their clothes and can “educate” impeccably on the product. Everything—down to how the store is organized—is designed with the “guest” in mind. It works. Really well. I’ve witnessed how easily people can be persuaded and guided to buy. It’s not just enough to have a great product—the entire package must be complete—and lululemon is psychologically enhanced and packaged to sell. It is clearly brilliant—inside (the store) and out.

Photo: lululemon.

I will be the first to say that I took great use of the “staff library” (required reading) and educated myself on everything from positive affirmations (Stephen Covey and Brian Tracy) to appropriate management behavior (First, Break all the Rules.) The irony is that through these tools, I realized that I could do better, be better and live more in line with my personal philosophy. In lulu terms, “I just wasn’t a good fit.”

For over a year, I allowed myself be part of their collective experiment and it turned out to be like all the others—a waste of my precious time. I was involved with “grassroots, community networking” (they’re not into old-fashioned advertising, though they do it when and where they need to), guerilla yoga around the city, in-store classes and events. Great. But here’s the bottom line: you’re still selling stuff—to people who don’t need it; who think they need it, but who definitely do not need it. How yogic.

When was the last time Chip Wilson—or better yet Bob Meers—read the Bhagavad Gita or Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras? Have they read a different translation than me? Or, more likely, have they not read ’em at all? Am I the only one seeing the incongruencies of a “yoga clothing company” with a corporate world take-over agenda who unabashedly claims their manifesto to be one of “bettering the world” one yoga pant at a time?

The West is sick. Affluenza is poisoning our lives, our egos, and our beings. The wild horses are taking us for a ride. And we’re lettin’ ’em ride good.

Perhaps with the latest “economic crisis,” people will start to reflect more. Maybe they’ll see what is inherently wrong with the “consume, profit, develop” picture.

I don’t see large corporations “going green and conscious” as the solution. The same age old solutions still apply to every aspect of our lives. Think globally, act locally. Smaller is often better and more mindful of the community it is a part of. Now that is “yogic”!

During this current American holiday season, at least I can feel good about not participating in the massive plastic swiping that takes place in the name of “gift giving.” Karmically I feel like now I can sleep at night, knowing that I’m not selling people more synthetic luon with the false hopes of making their lives more enjoyable, their yoga practice somehow better and their butt more appealing.

Now is the time to reflect on my true principles and standards of behavior. Not only for me, but for businesses and communities. Bigger is not better, less is more.

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