November 16, 2013

In Defense of Lululemon’s CEO, Chip Wilson.

Summary: We put our money into a corporation we know is a big ****, they’re gonna act like big ****s, and that’s their right.

So now’s the time to invest our hard-earned yoga outfit dollars in companies that are actually mindful. ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.

Image source here.

In Defense of Lululemon’s CEO, Chip Wilson.

Okay, that title of mine is bullshit.


I don’t particularly care to defend Lululemon or Chip Wilson. You should know that they’ve never advertised and never will and I therefore have no backroom reason to be nicey nice to them, unlike…other yoga publications. That said, I like to try and be fair. It’s a nice thing to be.

Lululemon staff in Boulder, my hometown, have never been anything but outgoingly, genuinely kind to me. Same at Yoga Journal conferences. They’re nice people. There’s a nice company culture, and as a (smaller, much smaller, okay, miniscule-level) CEO myself, I admire Lulu for creating such a proactive, independent, inspired company culture.

For years, however, I’ve criticized Lululemon for this. I stand by that, and underline it here. Literally!

And, this: Lululemon could and should be an ethically-sourced brand, since it takes the dollars of an ethics-focused community. But: said demographic isn’t ethical, particularly: the yoga folks of the world consume, consume, consume, and much of that consumption is of products made unethically.

Still, yoga is a path, not just a demographic or an industry, and the path itself is founded upon ethics.

So: it’s an obvious thing to say but we who practice yoga should walk our talk, and support brands that are equally as ethical as our practice. Secondhand should be our first shopping option. Inner Waves and Blue Canoe and the like should be where we send our dollars, next.

But, in a limited defense of Lululemon, they make nice stuff, that fits (some of us) well, and lasts a long time (or, doesn’t, according to who you’re talking to). I’d say that they make great men’s shorts. Great. They fit, they work, they don’t cling. The shorts fit well, and serve my practice well. So, props to Lululemon’s designers.

To shift to offense, the shorts are made of plastic—like everything in Lulu. Plastic is indirectly related to cancer, and to permanently polluting our environment. It’s the last thing that we want to sweat in. Heat plus water plus plastic..? No.

Next, as mentioned previously, the shorts are made in a factory resembling this. Poor unicorns.

Secondly, I respect Chip for saying what he actually thinks. That’s rare.

I don’t believe that his apology is sincere—I think, in private, he thinks what he said was clumsy, but true: that it’s hard to design his clothes for all sizes without getting overly sheer (nakey), and Lulu doesn’t try all that hard.

So let’s remember: it’s the right of any company to target any demographic, and the funny (sad?) thing about this latest controversy is that, if anything, it will help Lululemon’s reputation for being the yoga outfit of choice for slim, well-off “yoga girls.” Still, I find it sad that we the people love to pile up on any public figure for speaking their mind—however wrong. It doesn’t work to change their minds. They simply begin to be less sincere. I would rather Chip offend us than cloak his actual ethics, inspirations, and views behind BS PR. Wouldn’t you, too? For better and worse, Lulu has a long history of doing what it wants, with a sense of humor, or heart, and damn the consequences.

Hell, even their name, apparently, is jokey racism-lite (Chip thought it’d be funny to challenge the ability of the many Japanese-Canadians of Vancouver, Lulu’s home, to say his company’s name: RuRuRemon, haah, right?).

But that’s what we get when we, a community (not merely a demographic) with the ability to actually help to transform ourselves, our society and our planet for the better, invest our hard-earned dollars in a right of rightwing public company and a wealthy CEO who doesn’t (frankly) think you should be wearing his yoga pants if you look like this.


1. I hope this controversy encourages Lulu to make their company’s products more fair labor, and more eco-responsible. I doubt it. But I’d love it. It’d be a free-PR bonanza from a psyched community.

2. I hope this controversy encourages Lulu fans to support mindful businesses, including Lulu if it gets mindful.

3. I hope this controversy isn’t just a gossipy, angry pile-on-Chip for speaking his mind.

4. I hope this controversy doesn’t encourage Chip to cease to speak his mind. I hope he and his wife will continue to support mainstream meditation. I hope he’ll continue to build a wildly successful company that makes products that are well-loved and brings the path of yoga to the malls of America (etc).

Then we can all go back to…you know, our (eco, fair labor?) yoga mat.


PS: I know it’s lululemon, not Lululemon. I just like to tweak our friends at lulu, a little, to make sure we can all laugh and smile at ourselves and this situation, despite the serious questions and issues it touches upon.

PPS: not particularly relephant, but it’s elephant journal, not Elephant Journal.




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