Chip Wilson, founding Big Lulu of Lululemon, recently resigned after publicly suggesting the fabric on his company’s Luon yoga pants was fraying at the crotch because women can only search for Shiva’s enlightenment if they don’t have Ganesha’s thighs. As a man who started wearing Lululemon a few years ago, I wanted to let Chip know about my adventures with his iconic brand.
Surprised to hear about your resignation just as it appeared you were about to become the Rob Ford of workout wear. You know, another outspoken, uber-famous, fashion-forward Canadian.
A few years ago I started practicing yoga and discovered my Cobra was venomous, my Downward Dog looked rabid, and my Eagle was extinct. But looking around the room at more lithe, flexible yogas and yoginis, I realized my problem.
It wasn’t that I was pushing 50 and hadn’t tried to touch my toes in 20 years while most of my classmates were 20-somethings fresh from their shifts at Starbucks — either serving and/or working on their screenplays. No, the problem was that I was wearing sweatpants and my old Batman t-shirt and everyone else was wearing Lululemon. And I knew everyone was wearing Lululemon because it’s impossible not to notice your strategically placed logos when someone’s downward dogging (although, sadly, I’ve yet to see through anyone’s pants).
The clothes were as stretchy as they were trendy, and, as someone trying to live a greener life, I thought . . . what could be more eco-friendly than Lululemon? The company is from Vancouver, my hometown, “Greenest city in the world”™. The clothes were made in a factory — in my neighbourhood. The company was created by a snowboarder named Chip!
Then I discovered you don’t call your sales clerks “sales clerks,” you call them “educators.”
Best of all you have a MANIFESTO, just like Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati or Jerry Maguire or Stalin.
And this isn’t just any manifesto. It’s a super groovy manifesto that looks like it was drafted during an all-nighter in a dorm room filled with yogis, poets, and philosophy majors.
– “Do one thing a day that scares you.”
– “Friends are more important than money.”
– “Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself.”
– “No fatties.”
Just reading it gives me the munchies . . .
So I visited a perky Lululemon educator and bought myself some underwear and a shirt made out of seaweed. Seaweed, how cool is that? And that was the point — it wasn’t just organic, it was a natural coolant — anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating, and detoxifying. The official tag read: “Releases marine amino acids, minerals and vitamins into the skin upon contact with moisture.” This shirt was so awesome it was gonna do Sun Salutations for me.
The New York Times thought it was so cool they analyzed the magical seaweed shirt and discovered it was only missing one little thing. Seaweed.
I know your company argued that the shirt really did contain seaweed (then stopped making any claims the shirt did anything cotton doesn’t). But who cares if it was made of seaweed or wasabi or some other part of the sushi? The shirt was still comfy and so was the underwear.
Then I found out that in order to be “competitive” you’d moved your manufacturing base from my neighbourhood to locations a few miles east like, you know, China . . . South Korea . . . Cambodia . . . . Mind you, I guess there’s a certain dharmic resonance in having yoga wear made in sweatshops. Not that I’d suggest Lulu would use sweatshops, although some critics do:
But they probably have lawyers.
But I like Lululemon. It’s comfortable. It looks good. Some of your material is organic and sustainable. You offer free yoga classes, so that’s pretty sweet. And your underwear is still realllllly comfy. There’s only one little problem with it. Just like those transparent yoga pants that are getting you in so much trouble, the undies thin out in the crotch after a few months and I’m always aware that I’m one pigeon pose away from going commando. What’s the Sanskrit word for that?
Like I said, I’m wearing medium undies — and according to your size chart I can get away with small. So Chip, just wondering, does this mean the fabric is fraying because Luon’s a lemon or are you going to suggest my balls are as big as yours?