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Rich, Possibly Befuddled Lululemon Founder Chip Wilson Resigns After Series of Controversies

in Business of Yoga, YD News

It seems the entry into viral yoga videoland isn’t the only recent change at lululemon HQ to make up for Ayn Randian booboos, etc.

Lululemon founder, Dennis “Chip” Wilson, the man who created the Vancouver-based biz in 1998, naming it so as a marketing strategy because of how difficult it would be for Asians to pronounce, the Landmark Forum advocate who strongly recommended employees attend their “self development” trainings or else, the Ayn Rand ideology devotee who recently plastered “Who is John Galt?” on shopping bags a few months ago to much criticism, the man who started it all with butt-hugging luon, is taking a step back from helming as chief lulu lollie goalsetter (and possibly future fracases).

“I remain deeply committed to the Company’s continued success and given the strength we’ve built into the organization over the past three years, I feel comfortable leaving the company with [CEO] Christine Day at the helm of a world class management team whom I fully believe will continue to elevate our world. I look forward to continuing to contribute in my role as Chairman of the Board,” Wilson said in a news release today (January 6).

No official reason was provided, but one can only guesstimate it had a lot to do with that little clusterfluffle about “conquering the epidemic of mediocrity.” We have to be honest and say we’re rather disappointed in Wilson’s lack of chutzpah after all this. They’ve been through a series of controversies over the years, including being caught non-seaweed handed and camel toe ads, and he’s stepping down now?

With Chip gone what will we have to prod them about anymore besides super high prices, disturbingly unnecessary perkiness, wishy washy stance on child labor and subpar manufacturing conditions? Ex-Starbucks Exec, CEO Christine Day will have to soldier on.

And Chip?

Wilson’s estimated networth was $1.9 billion with organization revenues of $700 million, The Richest states. Wilson’s also linked to the big-ticket Point Grey mansion–worth $37.2–million–currently the most valuable home in Vancouver.

At least we know Mr. Wilson will resign comfortably. Lemmings stand (in your luon) strong.

[Vancouver Observer; NYT]



36 comments… add one
  • Matt

    Objectivism. What would you expect of someone who thinks yoga is about being able to afford $500.00 yoga pants?

  • Elizabeth

    I’m surprised to see yet another company I thought I liked connected to pushing est (aka Landmark Forum) on its employees. (For those outside the San Francisco Bay Area, the all-vegan Cafe Gratitude chain–popular with yogis–also pushes Landmark Forum workshops, and managers are required to attend. Most of its outlets are set to close, due to the company’s decision to close rather than fight lawsuits alleging violations of California employment law. You can read more about it online.) Why do businesses targeting yoga practitioners think they need to push a for-profit “self improvemet” scheme on us?

    They might have avoided some mediocrity by not skimping on the thickness of their Luon material; the pants I bought in 2005 are significantly thicker than the ones I purchased in 2009. I used to champion my Lululemon pants as a good investment, as they lasted longer than antyhing else available and wicked sweat away quickly. Now, however, there are numerous products that share both qualities.

    I wonder if the company will improve with Wilson NOT at the helm?

  • martha

    Chip’s just going galt. He’s going to sit back and wait for yoga to fall apart without him.

  • Melissa Sander

    Lululemon has always seemed silly to me.
    Statements touting self -worth and confidence are plastered on shopping bags, walls, and advertisements, but the sizing does not go beyond 12.
    Lies are told about the fabric used, with only a ridiculous response from the CEO about how it “feels different.”
    The name was created …is that a true story?
    Lululemon is a store created by and for the ugly American.

    • TSparkes

      As much as I agree with the distain for LLL- this is Canadian company started by a Canadian.

  • Melissa

    Oh, a little harsh there! My appologies. Shopping at Lululemon does not make one an ugly anything.

    • Matt

      No, you were right the first time. Anyone who shells out $500.00 for a pair of yoga pants needs to take a good, long look at him/herself.

      • jenn

        Okay, for everyone who keeps saying they’re $500… they are not . Let’s not over-over exaggerate. They average $98. While that is still pretty high for my standards, it’s not that awful compared to the UGG cult.
        I can’t attest to their quality now but once upon a time they were made to last which made it worth the $98 price tag.

  • Mike

    Wow, what a one sided amateur article. A big sense of jealousy toward success of a company and a great person.

    Obviously you have zero I idea what he is all about and how he treats people both within and outside the company.

    I guess some people like to dwell on negative and not the positive as well as putting other people down instead of attempting becoming a success themselves. Maybe spend the time trying to improve yourself? Just an idea.

    Oh and their products, if you know or even wear athletic wear are top notch.

    Oh and do your research on how the name came about. You are wrong their too.

    • jenn

      “there” not “their”

  • Melissa

    Since I have never met Mr. Wilson, the only way I can form an opinion of him is by reading his words. Which I did, which convinced me he is a silly, dishonest person.
    I like your thoughts on self-improvement. This is something we should always pursue.
    I actually do wear quite a bit of athletic wear. I do not find Lululemon to be top notch. Not even close.
    Over the last four years, I have written to Mr. Wilson. At no suprise to me, he has never responded.
    I, too, read the quote regarding the nomiker, Lululemon. Untrue? I hope so. The quote I read was so ugly and sad. I hope Mr. Wilson was misquoted.
    I can only hope the statements attributed to Mr. Wilson regarding “Chinese workers” were also misquotes. I prefer to think that level of ignorance is obsolete.
    I can say I do feel successful. I am educated, employed, healthy, fit, and eager to learn and grow every day. I wake each day with a feeling of gratitude.
    The light in me honors the light in you.

  • Kales

    Lots of great points on both sides here-Lululemon is a complicated company. Super expensive clothing, some of which is high quality, some of it is crap (I’ve had a particularly bad batch this fall, all of which have had structural failures within 2 months of purchase-I’m definitely boycotting). Limited sizing-definitely a failure, and returns are unpleasant at best. However, re: “Lululemon is a store created by and for the ugly American,” isn’t this all based out of Vancouver, Canada? It’s good to know that these so-called American issues are actually Canadian…

  • Melissa

    Good point! I use the term to describe an attitude, not a nation!

  • This company has always seemed grossly cultish to me. I am happy to see the glossy veneer rubbed off a bit. Viva affordable yoga clothes!

  • Nique

    @10:55, Canadians are Americans. Like the U.S., Canada is in North America. Many Canadians are irritated, and rightly so, when people from the U.S. think they’re the only Americans on this continent.

    That said, I agree that Mr. Wilson appears to have many Ugly American qualities.

  • rumiko

    I’ve read & heard about the supposed marketing strategy in the naming of his company. The problem is that he’s mistaken: Japanese people have difficulty rolling their tongues to sound the “R”s, and are perfectly fine with “L”s. In fact the “R”s end up sounding like “L”s so more “L”s the better. So unless his strategy was to make a brand in Japan & other Asian countries, with a name no harder to pronounce than any other company than he’s has accomplished it. He must be a genius.

    source: native speaker & very perplexed by Wilson’s reasoning. (it doesn’t even make sense to call it racist.)

  • Atalanta

    There’s a larger problem at hand here which not one person has addressed: Ayn Rand’s philosophy is one based on superficiality, shallowness and vacuousness. There are many, many YouTube videos of snippets of her speeches/lectures which were not only downright racist, but showed her up to be the miserable, mean-spirited human being who clearly had not overcome self-loathing of her own looks nor her experiences with Soviet Russia in the early days of the Revolution. She didn’t deal with it and instead projected it outwards via her writings and characterizations of people. The last two vids are especially important.

    It’s not surprising a shallow company like Lululemon jumped on the Randian bandwagon. The yoga industry now is just as shallow as Rand herself was and equally guilty about selling themselves. Some modern day followers of yoga and lululemon alike to pride themselves on their environmentalism, their “greenness”, their charity and their kindness to each other and the world on one hand and then espousing Rand’s belief system which was fundamentally against environmentalism on the other. Even reading her essays in “The Virtue of Selfishness” “For the New Intellectual” or “The Romantic Manifesto” , Rand depicted Indian culture and Vedic philosophy in such ugly, racist and primitive terms, that I’m shocked that Dennis Wilson did not pick up the contradiction earlier, which to me only shows HIS shallowness and my guess is that he did not read the aforementioned books at all and just coasted on the veneer of grandiosity and greatness which “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” gives off .
    Herein lies the problem not only of Wilson but many people in the yoga community: They don’t question enough and they don’t rigorously research enough and instead accept things at face value.

  • Valery Petrich

    My goodness. Let us separate the wheat from the chaff. This man has unequivacably demonstrated the courage to rise above mediocrity, take many others to success with him, revolutionized the bodywear industry, spawned imitators nipping at his heels, challenged us to put our thinking caps on about our philosophies in life in general, fed the yoga industry to previously unheard of heights (and everyone in it) become a likeable Canadian icon, withstood the strain of capturing a U.S. market and this is the way we treat our hero? Really folks. Since when did profit become a dirty word. Hats off to you Chip. You have done us all proud. Those that don’t agree, just vote with your wallets. We have all seen the results of that!

    • Bethany

      how does someone use two contradicting philosophies in order to make a profit for themselves? Chip made money on yoga, using yogic and Vedic words to build a billion dollar empire, by selling false serenity and branding clothes using Vedic and yogic philosophy and then slaps it by using Ayn Rand’s credo, when the woman positively hated eastern mysticism and anything remotely related to India.
      Nothing wrong with making money by itself.
      Something wrong with making money when using two anti ethical philosophies at the expense of user’s ignorance. It’s like walking into McDonald’s to order a double cheeseburger while wearing a PETA T-shirt.

  • Valery Petrich

    What is truly beautiful about this controversy ( a journalist’s job well done) is that many will actually read ‘Atlas Shruggged’. I can’t think of a better book to have us all question our values, clarify our perspective and rise to our fullest potential. You don’t have to agree with Ojbectivism, you just have to think about it, as obviously Chip has and lived his views successfully.
    The fantastic thing about being an entrepreneur of Chip’s superb calibre is that he has earned the right to say what he wants.
    We all stand on the shoulders of someone else. Think about what this Canadian has done for you!

  • caroline

    Rand had no idea about elevating herself to greatness or “conquering the epidemic of mediocrity”
    she couldn’t even live her life according to the principles she espoused herself, while she was married, her also-married lover who was 20 years younger than her, left her for another woman, she had a vendetta which lasted against Nathaniel Branden until the day she died. Oh, and BTW, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan was a devotee of Rand’s and was one of the principle architects of the Wall Street financial crisis of 2008 (Watch “Inside Job”). I don’t see any “greatness” there but I do see mediocrity of character and people running for cover when the chickens come home to roost.
    Chip Wilson milked the yoga cash cow for all he could, made some stupid blunders and now has retreated. Unfortunately there are too many like him in the world and in the industry.

    • Valery Petrich

      Caroline You are correct. I have read Nathaniel Brandon’s book on his life with Ayn Rand, his ex wife’s book on her life with Ayne Rand and the biography of Ayn Rand, as well as all of Ayn Rand’s books. She was complex, briliant and yes, tortured. So is the statement ‘Who is John Galt’ a worthy question to ask? It sems so. Here we are all these years later with it still provoking thought. It encouarges choice, choice of philsophy and choice of what merchandise you want to buy..

      • caroline

        Watch this especially from 2:49 onwards about Ayn Rand and the 100 page crap called John Galt’s speech in the middle of Atlas Shrugged. This is from Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world’s top economist

  • Matt

    I knew this would bring all the Randians out of their holes. One would think that they would be too busy Producing Wealth and Creating Excellence to scan the interwebs all day looking for people saying Bad Things about their Dear Leader.

  • jay

    Chip Wilson has a net worth of $2.9 billion. He is a Canadian who was raised in San Diego and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-businessmen/richest-billionaires/chip-wilson-net-worth/

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