Lululemon – we are never, ever, ever getting back together

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.

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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?

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2 thoughts on “Lululemon – we are never, ever, ever getting back together

  1. I had never heard of this brand before, naively thinking that most women made do with whatever was on offer in Primark/Penney’s. Although I’ve never done yoga so I’ve no idea what people buy.

    And I don’t think the founder’s comments were that outlandish or even offensive. Loads of brands are known for being designed only certain body types. Again, I’ve no personal experience of this, but I’ve heard anecdotal evidence about River Island in Ireland (do you have that in Canada?). It’s just capitalism: it’s easier to mass produce a couple of styles of garment that cover most people and let the minority shop elsewhere. I’m not saying he was right to say it, but I’m sick and tired of people gettin their knickers (or their yoga pants) in a twist every time someone says something supposedly ‘offensive’. He’s in the business of selling clothes and he has no moral obligation to make his products suit everybody. If you don’t like them, just don’t buy them, as you’ve decide to.

    See-through yoga pants – what a storm in a teacup! It’s not like people are naked underneath! Women do wear knickers when they go to the gym, don’t they? (Hmm, the word ‘knickers’ twice in one comment. Odd.)

    Sorry if the above sounds like an grumpy rant!

    On another note, who is that talk show host in the video? Now he’s offensive. He might think he’s being cutting edge with his racial slurs but he isn’t.

    • What a great response! It certainly made me think. You make a great point about it just being capitalism, and I know that pretty much all clothing brands have a similar ethos and opinion about customers who may not “fit” into their clothes, figuratively and literally. What brands like Lululemon and Abercrombie and Fitch (also recently in the media for comments about clothing sizes) are selling is…aspiration. I get that, even if I don’t like it.

      My problem though with the founder’s remarks though is that Lulu ISN’T “mass producing a couple of styles of garment that cover most people and let the minority shop elsewhere,” as you wrote. Not when the average woman’s size in the US is a 14 (16 in UK size), and Lulu goes up to…a 10. So it’s actually the minority who are allowed and welcome to shop at Lulu, and the majority being left out. Because anyone over a size 10 couldn’t be interested in doing yoga or anything active, right? (rolls eyes)

      But you cut to the main problem nicely and in a very practical way – if you don’t like them, don’t buy them.

      And as for what woman wear (and don’t) to the gym – ughhh, you’d be surprised!! Knickers aren’t always guaranteed…

      The talk show host in the video is Jimmy Kimmel, a late night guy. And yeah, I agree with you there!

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