I’m officially breaking up with Lululemon.
Our torrid relationship started in the winter of 2008 when I could no longer resist the siren call of the store’s distinctive loopy entrance. I ducked inside; I emerged 15 minutes later and $80 poorer with a buttery-soft metallic yoga bag that was on clearance (so I could justify the purchase).
When my boyfriend at the time saw it, he scrutinized the logo suspiciously. “Wait…isn’t that the brand that all those girls are obsessed with on campus?” The boyfriend – an English major, and a pretentious one at that – started referring to the bag as Grendel, one of the monsters in Beowulf.
Grendel was my gateway drug to the world of Lululemon, and I was hooked.
It started off innocently enough – I bought a pair of shorts and one of their tank tops. But what I’m ashamed to admit is how quickly the clothing became a status symbol for me. Working out at the gym in my lulu made me feel prettier. It didn’t make me faster or stronger, but I felt like I finally belonged. I walked around the gym with confidence now that I looked like…well, 99% of the other girls there, just less tan and blonde.
Fully decked out in my first Lululemon outfit (left)
I was aware at the time how awful it was to have my self-worth completely tied up in a $100 work-out outfit, but it made me so happy I didn’t care.
I also told myself it was the quality of the clothes that made them worth it for me. As a runner, I needed sweat-wicking fabrics and supportive sports bras, right? Well, yes, but Lululemon isn’t the only company to make those things. Let’s be honest: it was the little double-L symbol that did it for me. I bought into the Lululemon lifestyle promise and started thinking I couldn’t possibly go to a hot yoga class without my No Limits Tank or run in the winter without my special running jacket. I watched myself do these activities through the gaze of the consumer and I liked how I looked, like some Perfect Commercial Girl.
But again – looking like a Perfect Commercial Girl didn’t make my life perfect. Lululemon isn’t what got me my qualifying time for Boston. It didn’t even get me that much male attention at the gym because let’s face it, EVERY girl is wearing Lulu there.
All of this is to remind myself that Lululemon isn’t the be all and end all. It’s not magical. Its quality has been steadily declining over the years while its prices are still obscene.
And what’s more? According to Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon and the 10th richest man in Canada, it’s our fault the quality of the clothes isn’t there anymore. Remember Sheer-gate, when pants had to be yanked from Lulu stores across North America because the fabric was too see-through?
Well, Chip Wilson recently told Bloomberg TV that “quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for [Lululemon’s pants].”
He went on to bury himself into a deeper hole: “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time and how much they use it,” Wilson said.
So it’s not enough that Lululemon only carries pants up to a size 12, when the average North American woman wears between a 12 and a 14. No, now their sheer pants are our problem because of our pesky thighs rubbing together! Well, of course! Silly us. It’s not, say, the fact that they use crap material (but there’s seaweed in it! Magical luon healing properties!). Please. No wonder “thigh gap” has become a thing now.
It was the exclusivity of Lululemon that got me hooked in the first place, but it’s that very exclusivity that’s turning me off now. Women’s bodies shouldn’t have to “work” for a company. The company should work for them.
Also, I would like to see Chip Wilson’s thighs (actually, no I wouldn’t). But why are women’s bodies always the topic of conversation, always presented in opposition to something, while men’s bodies rarely are?
Watching this interview disgusted me, but it also made me feel ashamed. Because…I still love my Lululemon clothes. They’re pretty and they still make me feel pretty, no matter how much I want to deny that. And I’m still going to wear the ones I already own.
But I’m no longer going to shop there. They’ve gotten my money (more than I care to add up!) but they won’t get any more.
Is it hypocritical of me to continue wearing Lulu, even if its their older stuff I bought a couple years ago? I don’t think so, but I’m still wrestling with it. Maybe it’s like holding onto an ex-boyfriend’s old shirt – it’s time to give it up?
What do you think? Should there be a boycott of Lululemon because of Chip Wilson’s remarks? Do most mainstream retailers who try to market a certain exclusivity think this way (ie. Abercrombie and Fitch), so if we were to boycott one, we should be boycotting all? And does anyone else feel prettier in certain work-out clothes, and how can we (or should we?) change that perception?