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Lululemon Goes Ayn Rand Ideology to ‘Conquer Epidemic of Mediocrity’

in Business of Yoga, YD News

The seasons change, our down dog evolves (always…what is the deal?) and yet Lululemon just downright refuses to cease in their mission of ruckus-causing and awkward affirmation-making. Tis the quest for greatness. Goals do not die easy! This time, with a literal attack on the antagonistic of mediocrity, Lulu has launched another controversial ship into the sea with the new “Who Is John Galt?” shopping bags. They’re based on Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, oh and creating “vacuums of brilliance” and “conquering the epidemic of mediocrity,” according to lulu lollies.

Why are they promoting this on shopping bags? Says the lulu blog:

“Who Is John Galt?”

This question appears many times in Ayn Rand’s classic 1957 novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” and, curiously, it also appears on the side of our shopping bags currently in our stores.

You might be wondering why a company that makes yoga clothing has chosen a legendary literary character’s name to adorn the side of our bags. lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson, first read this book when he was eighteen years old working away from home. Only later, looking back, did he realize the impact the book’s ideology had on his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness (it is not coincidental that this is lululemon’s company vision).

Oh boy. To elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness is a pretty steep feat even if you are making women feel they need to spend $90+ to vacuum-suck their asses into stretchy pants in order to feel such ‘greatness.’

Anyway, it’s spurred curious headlines from Gawker’s Lululemon Run by Ayn Rand-Obsessed Ideologue to the Globe and Mail’s Lululemon’s Ayn Rand bag irks some (Others shrugged), besides ruffling a few bakasana feathers.

Sarah Kurchak, a 29-year-old fitness instructor (former lulu lemming?) in Toronto says, “it’s a clash with yoga values,” and  refuses to add another piece of luon to her already extensive lulu wardrobe as long as those bags are being handed out. Take a stand, Sarah.

When the Lulu connection to Werner Erhard’s controversial Landmark Forum is already leaving folks disenchanted totally freaked out, it doesn’t help to add more ideology-pushing to the company line.

If unfamiliar, Ayn Rand is known for her thoughts on Objectivism, a “philosophy for living on earth.” Your wikipedia definition:

Objectivism is a philosophy created by the Russian-American philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982). Objectivism holds that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or rational self-interest, that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights, embodied in laissez faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform man’s widest metaphysical ideas, by selective reproduction of reality, into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which he can respond emotionally.

Meditate on that.

Should a yoga-inspired clothing company push ideologies with their marketing campaigns? Of course, we’ve seen it done before (and the response).

“Our bags are visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity.” lululemon

Let’s reflect: Who the eff is mediocre anyway? If you ask is us, a company calling us mediocre because we prefer to make up our own minds instead of being indoctrinated by philosophy-pushing yoga pants-manufacturers making a gazillion dollars on our lifestyle choices can sit on their greatness…and you know the rest.

Whether you’re an Ayn Rand/lulu fan or not, we just encourage you to be conscious, to question where you spend your dough, your energy and to be present of who and what you’re representing when you slither into those stretchy bum-shaper, sip down your chosen coco water or whatever. YOU can make up your mind.

The book is now being sold in stores and is on the company’s reading list.



43 comments… add one
  • A marketing campaign is designed to create buzz. In turn, buzz creates curiosity, curiosity makes the doors swing as people come into the store to check it all out and voila! Another pair of yoga pants sold. That’s really all there is to it.
    Besides, there aren’t as many angsty college students running around reading Ayn Rand as there were a generation ago, nevermind that today’s young shoppers are already much more cynical of advertising in general. So I really don’t think a shopping bag is going to shape anyone’s habits. It’s okay.

  • Emma

    Interesting article. I will note, though…the whole concept of objectivism is based on the idea of “mak[ing] up [your] own mind”. Mediocrity comes from a failure to live consciously, not the other way around. You seem to disapprove of Ayn Rand, but I think it’s interesting your arguments stem from many of the same principles objectivism espouses. I’d recommend checking it out.

  • Fiona

    Great post!

    Hers’s my take on why this seems an odd marketing decision to take now.

  • abbylou

    I have defended Lululemon on this very website, arguing that the Lulu pants are so well made and last for so long that it justifies the hefty price. I totally disagree with Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I guess I am stuck wearing the pants for another few years, since that is how long it will take for them to wear out. I am certainly not going to replace them.

  • Elizabeth

    Goodbye, Lululemon. I think this is the final straw. Fortunately I now have many, many other choices for well-constructed pants that last a long time. I will be visiting Lucy and Title 9, and exercising my right not to sport Ayn Rand crap. (They know she was a chain smoker, right? Dirty pranayama, anyone?)

  • Is there anything scarier than wikipedia meeting Rand? Yikes.

    That said… this is an irresistible story.

  • Actually, my only issue with Ayn Rand is that her book, which was a terribly written piece of trash as novels go, was also a misguided and simplistic representation of how economies work. It’s followers, including Mr. Greenspan, were responsible for the crash of the global economy. Their passion for deregulation the empowerment of the “producers” has led to a world that is crashing economically, socially and ecologically. Thank goodness more people are rising up spiritually, because that may just save us all.

    • Actually, it was the fact that Alan Greenspan ABANDONED the principles taught by Ludwig von Mises — whose ideas Ayn Rand promoted extensively — that got the United States into our current and nearly irreversible trouble. Greenspan essentially switched sides from TRUE free-markets (which in America were based on Common Law and was also abandoned, which is why we now have so much pollution and wealth disparity, etc.) to Keynesianism, and began “printing” money like crazy, as well as granting special privileges to certain favored corporations and countries (that’s called fascism, by-the-way).

      Keynesianism — the exact antithesis of what Mises and Rand taught — is what the elite trained economists and financial advisors of our administrations and NON-free-market corporations have been preaching and operating under since the 1930s, when Keynes published his General Theory of Employment. AND, the ANTI-free-enterprise corporations began infiltrating the U.S. government starting in the Woodrow Wilson administration around WWI, and completed the majority of their damage under the supportive guard of F.D. Roosevelt, when he nationalized nearly everything in sight.

      Interestingly, Keynes, in 1919, wrote a book — Economic Consequences of the Peace — in which he quoted and AGREED with V.I. Lenin that inflationary monetary policies destroyed any economy that employed them. So, if Keynes believed that, why did he promote it later on? And why do our geniuses in the Administration and Congress still operate under it? THAT is what is bankrupting our country, not free-markets. And our banking institutions all the way back to 1913 have been — BY DEFINITION — not free-market based, but fascist, if you use Mussolini’s definition, which he simply said, was Corporatism: the pubic-private partnerships everyone raves about today.

      Those who think our countries’ current woes are the result of “free markets” such as Ayn Rand taught are dreadfully uninformed and/or out of touch with reality. They have “… misguided and simplistic representation of how economies work …” and bought the propaganda of the many federal administrations of the 20th Century, right up to the current one. Also, no other book except the Bible has sold as well as Atlas Shrugged. I guess trash sells pretty well. Maybe it was well-made but poorly written trash? All I know about that is that everything she said is happening right in front of our eyes, with only minor modifications to details.

      BTW, I just made a chart comparing the Yamas and Niyamas of Yoga with the 10 Commandments and the platform of Ron Paul, who is a TRUE free-market guy. Guess what? IF you were using the Yamas and Niyamas as a guideline, he is the ONLY candidate that would fit the bill. If for no other reason he’s the only TRULY non-violent candidate out there. But there are many other reasons, too.

  • I wonder if Ayn Rand would have done yoga… maybe Bikram?

  • @Elena … or if Bikram “does” Ayn Rand?

  • As a former Lulu employee nothing that this company does surprises me. Getting fired from there was one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

    And now tutu’s? Really?

    • Richard K

      And why didn’t you quit? You waited to get fired because, why?

  • Banana Republic Resident

    Whatever it take$ to $ell ridiculou$ly overpriced merchandi$e.

  • me first and the gimme gimme's

    one thing i found interesting about the article was how the writer so obviously thought that lululemon was a “bad boy” for espousing ayn rand so directly, but yet the arguments used to make such a case were so inline with objectivist principles.

    example: ” we prefer to make up our own minds instead of being indoctrinated by philosophy-pushing yoga pants-manufacturers” … and so on, and so forth. first, the cornerstone of objectivism, for those who are unable to read between the lines, is one’s ability to think for one’s self. funny thing though, the entire yoga industry (and yes, all you yogis and wanna-be yogis out there are subject to an actual YOGA INDUSTRY) is a philosophy pushing money making machine. if it weren’t, do you really think it would have taken off the way it has? while they were at one time integral to the equation, the health benefits have been reduced to nothing more than a nice bonus.

    second to last, i must respond to jenny’s comment about ” there aren’t as many angsty college students running around reading Ayn Rand as there were a generation ago, nevermind that today’s young shoppers are already much more cynical of advertising in general.”

    it’s true about the college kids not running around reading ayn rand, but i suspect that’s because there aren’t as many college kids running around reading books at all. technology has shortened the typical attention span to 140 characters or less (john galt’s diatribe at the end of atlas is 60+ pages!) i think that also plays into the advertising situation. it’s not that they’re more cynical, it’s that they lose interest before the advertisement even gets going. it’s really sad too, because that’s one of the things that’s driving our society further into this abyss of mediocrity. perhaps we would actually benefit from some of these college kids picking up an ayn rand book and reading it! at the very least, it might trick them into some actual critical thinking….

    last (and if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably at least 25 years old), kudos to lululemon for letting the world know where they stand. if nothing else, i’m definitely with them in their fight against mediocrity!

    • Interesting how some of Ron Paul’s biggest supporters are college kids. And when he recommends books for them to read, they DO it. He’s not a Randian, but he is closer to it than anyone in the either party.

  • michelle

    “Our bags are visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity.” -Lululemon

    Blech! What self-aggrandizing drivel this is.

  • My problem with it is that this philosophy has been indoctrinated by the extreme right wing in our country to disenfranchise the middle class, poor people, sick people, and the education of our children. For that reason I will no longer buy their products.

  • David D

    “Whether you’re an Ayn Rand/lulu fan or not, we just encourage you to be conscious, to question where you spend your dough, your energy and to be present of who and what you’re representing when you slither into those stretchy bum-shaper, sip down your chosen coco water or whatever. YOU can make up your mind.” And that is how a capitalist system is supposed to work. You vote with every purchase you make. So does everyone else. If you don’t like over-priced yoga gear (do we really need gear anyway?), then don’t buy it. If enough people agree with you, then it will go away. If enough people like the goods, then they will stay. If you’re feeling especially frisky, you can form your own company and make whatever you want (within governmental and economic constraints of course).

    But there’s the rub, right? Other people, those stupid other people, don’t always agree with you. That’s the problem.

    The great benefit of the capitalist system (and a republican form of government) is that you are free to try to get what you want. The downside is that other people are free to get what they want. Sometimes, the two conflict. And the other guy’s always the one that’s wrong, right? If only you got to tell other people what to do, the world would be a better place, right?

    Seriously, if you don’t like Rand or objectivism, great (I’m not such a fan either, but at least she understood the benefits of capitalism and free markets). But Lulu’s just selling yoga pants and bags. Don’t buy them if you don’t like them. No need to get the vapors.

  • Put a Marxist slogan or a picture of Che on something, and no one cares.

    Quote Ayn Rand and, well, this happens.

    You’d think it was capitalism that killed 100M and impoverished billions, and communism that had lifted billions out of poverty and provided the highest living standards in human history.

    • David D

      Exactly. The hippy adoption of Che in particular irks me, but I don’t like sociopathic, totalitarian murderers. I’m funny like that.

  • Jay

    Yoga Dork,

    Great piece about Lulu, Old Chipper, and Rand. So tired of seeing Lulu up in my face all the time and the group of Sorority Girls “Lulu Girls” coming in droves to the yoga studios/class to spread their propaganda.

    Seriously, everybody needs to stop drinking the Lulu Koolaid and being so self absorbed with themselves, their goals, and God forbid their clothing. Really..WTF “elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness”. This book did not change his life or bring Chipper or Lulu to greatness.

    Set of circumstances people…Wake up. He found a niche and it took off. Timing and Luck are the 2 pieces to most success stories. I am sure Old Chipper is working on his memoirs at this very moment.

    I am wondering when Old Chipper is no longer on the planet…will people turn out in droves like they did for Steve Jobs….God I hope not…Steve deserved it, but I am thinking it’s going to be a crisis for some peeps when he passes. Are we going to see the same response from the Lulu faithful as we did when Curt Cobain took his life…!!!!

    Wake up America…It’s all practically Made in China with sweat labor. I do not see that as fair trade labor and practices and Lulu can sugar coat all the want, but would people and Yogis all over the world be so eager to eat their precious meals/diets if their food was Made in China….Don’t think so….!!!!!

    Oh and my most favorite of all is the deceiving Lulu tags….

    “Designed in Canada”
    “Made in China”

  • mark

    OMG, those pants are so ugly, why would anyone buy them at nearly $100 a pop?

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