November 13, 2013

Chip Wilson, Founder of lululemon, Apologizes. [Video]

Fantastic—I just found out that I would rather not do yoga than wear certain pieces of my yoga clothing.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” you say?

Well, you may feel differently in a moment or two. Yes, it could get really interesting very quickly if you have purchased any of your fitness wear from lululemon or care about women, as individual human beings, in any genuine capacity.

In a story that is becoming more intriguing by the day, Chip Wilson, the founder of lululemon, has gone on film to apologize for his recent interpretation and apparent disconnect about how certain women’s bodies “just don’t actually work” in his company’s pants.

Say what?

Yoga is about bending, stretching, and during the practice your body parts (including one’s legs) naturally touch one another, right?

In order to comprehend the problem, one first needs to understand that, according to Chip, some women have thighs that rub together. Oh my! How did it come to this? He explains it to us in his recent interview with Bloomberg TV:

I didn’t feel any better after viewing his short and not so sweet apology. But for the sake of thoroughness, here it is for your viewing pleasure:

 ed’s note: this video strikes me as decent acting. I’d prefer he just stand by his original statement, that lulu can’t be everything to every body. ~ ed.

Although Chip may have apologized, the damage has been done.

I don’t believe he can change the harm caused by his statements, written and oral, through an apology alone.

Can a person really take back an intolerant string of comments that carve a path (or dig a ditch) along the same line of thinking? When there is a pattern, more needs to be done.

Our parents were right, folks—actions speak louder than words. If he’s going to walk the walk of his apology, he would be wise to work on himself and educate himself on women’s rights.

It is also mind boggling that the company’s stores only hang up the smaller sized clothing on hangers, and if you want a bigger size, you will have to dig through stacked piles in the rear of the store to find what you need.

When did sizes 10 and 12 become such an affliction to the customers’ eyes that they could no longer be displayed on a hanger? Does lululemon think that petite women will see the larger sizes and run out of the store?

lululemon is apparently following a shaming practice of shunning ‘larger’ women.

The average woman in America wears a size 14, so sizes 10 and 12 are actually on the small size for at least half of us. lululemon is not the only store to do this, but nonetheless, this does not display good business practices.

The company also recently seemed to mock a domestic abuse charity by placing off-putting signage onto their Dallas store front windows. “We do partners yoga, not partners card,” the sign read, referring to the nonprofit’s “Partners Card,” a discount card that offers purchasers bargains at local businesses and supports Family Place programs.”

To lululemon’s credit, the sign was taken down and they tried to patch things up with the charity by offering free yoga and apologizing on Facebook, according to the article.

The company is also quoted in the above piece as saying, “Our product and design strategy is built around creating products for our target guest in our size range of 2-12.” And fair enough, they go on to try to explain why they do this, but what about those who wear the sizes 10 and 12? Why are these women being served and treated differently? What about the other half of USA’s women who are larger than a size 12?

What is fair about their experience with lululemon?

It would seem obvious that there is a huge market for yoga wear amongst women of larger proportions, but why does lululemon choose not to provide them with clothing in their size? Is it that they don’t want their brand being worn by people who they might consider less attractive due to their physical proportions?

This is the only logical conclusion that I can come to. Why else would a company not want to increase their sales? What are we supposed to think about this?

We must also consider what this does to a woman who is shopping and has to jump through hoops that others do not just to get her size.

To add to their troubles, lululemon has also been involved in a lawsuit since March, when the CEO sold a crap-load of her stock before stepping down, but I diverge—back to Chip Wilson, and what is not being reported on by all major sources:

There was a blog that was removed from his site for obvious reasons a couple days ago, but can be unearthed on the internet archives. Chip makes claims that women who practice yoga are Super Girls raised by Super Women. I would caution that his idea of what makes a Super Girl is more than slightly twisted. In fact, his words are outlandish.

I went from laughing away his stupidity to being extremely angry by the time I read his blog, in its entirety.

This is the stuff of fiction—right?

No so called well-educated founder of a yoga clothing company could possibly believe that the birth control pill eventually led to the practice of yoga in the United States. And yet, if I followed the poorly written dribble and twisted logic correctly on the page, I think this is, at least in part, what he was trying to conclude.

Correlating women who smoked while on birth control to those who got breast cancer is also a bold association to make, even if it was a light association.

There are plenty of non-smokers who never took a birth control pill, who also got breast cancer. This kind of statement is bound to rub women the wrong way and put them on the defensive—kind of like when Chip spoke about his company’s yoga pants being rubbed the wrong way by women’s thighs.

Unaware consumers and people in the media should seriously understand, and most importantly know, that this man is not just a one trick pony when it comes to his view points.

As Chip himself, sums it up:

“Ultimately, lululemon was formed because female education levels, breast cancer, yoga/athletics and the desire to dress feminine came together all at one time. lululemon saw the opportunity to make the best technologically advanced components for the Super Girl market.”

It’s tragic that Chip didn’t come along sooner to save more women from their terrible states of being with his magical, pilling, see-through, $100 yoga pants.

editor’s note: we’ve discussed lulu’s lack of green before. We’ve also covered many great things they’ve done. Here’s an ad we loved. Here’s another. We’ve also discussed their questionable-at-best love for Mr. Galt. They’re often controversial. It’s their right to be. I’d argue that it’s not their right not to make their wares overseas, or out of plastic, without green aspects.  ~ ed.

Both men and women should be wary of this company’s way of doing business and make an informed decision for themselves about what was meant by what Chip Wilson wrote and said.

Yes, people will interpret these statements differently, but I don’t think this should all be tucked beneath a rock and forgotten about. One statement might have been apologized away, but when you look at the sum of the issues, it is a boulder that is needed to cover them all up.

I am not alone in some of the opinions and conclusions that I have personally come to.

Rebecca Hains, media coverage professor and author, had this to say:

“Who knew that being the tenth-richest man in Canada makes Wilson qualified to determine that sexually active career women bring cancer on themselves?”

She has championed a petition to hold Chip responsible for his words and actions and I, for one, will be signing it.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Creative Commons.}

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