Aw shit, is Lululemon purposefully shirking plus-sized yogis by hiding everything beyond size 8? That’s what some insiders and former employees claim. Save for the self-incriminating words from the horse’s mouth, we may have another Abercrombie & Fitch scenario on our hands.
This interesting Huffington Post article by Senior Retail Reporter Kim Bhasin goes in-depth on the potential reasonings, and ideologies, behind the claim. According to a former employee, Elizabeth Licorish*, most of the smaller sized merchandise was presented out on the floor, “hung on the walls, or folded neatly in cabinets for all the world to see.” But the largest sizes, the 10s and 12s (note: lulu’s largest size is a 12) “were relegated to a separate area at the back of the store, left clumped and unfolded under a table.”
Licorish adds that “larger offerings were rarely restocked” and “the only styles available in those sizes were old designs whose fashion moment had long since passed.”
“All the other merchandise in the store was kind of sacred, but these were thrown in a heap,” Licorish told The Huffington Post. “It was definitely discriminatory to those who wear larger sizes.”
Frankly, none of this is very surprising when you look at most of lulu’s ads, the culture of young, affluent, tight butts, and even their intendedly feel-good, at worst, bigoted, at best, naive, blog post from 2010 called “Love Your Body,” which backfired when images of skinny Lulu ambassadors were plastered right next to the words “there’s no size restriction on beauty and confidence.”
Commenters were quick to notice the disparity.
“So what you’re saying is ‘Love your body… but not unless you’re skinny enough to fit into our clothes,” one commenter replied. “How hypocritical. Your stores do not follow the philosophy you claim to follow,” wrote another.
And consumers continue to speak up about the lack of, not even plus, but typically “average” sizes. There’s even been a Change.org petition to get lulu to stock plus sizes and support “fitness at any size.”
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if Lululemon took an active stand in showing women of all sizes being athletic?” the petition’s author, Cordelia Storm asked.
Would it? We think we’re ready for someone else to take that torch and run with it. This from the HuffPo’s Bhasin pretty much says it all:
Far from an accident, the exiling of larger clothing by Lululemon is a central piece of the company’s strategy to market its brand as the look of choice for the stylishly fitness-conscious, according to former employees and consumer advocates. They say this treatment of larger clothes and customers reflects the culture that Lululemon represents — one that falsely suggests skinniness is the paramount feature of health. Lululemon declined to comment.
The truth is, lulu is so damn profitable right now, why do they need to cater to all these other people bitching and moaning? After all, Jeffries the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch made it a clear personal and business decision to exclude larger folks and they’re doing ok. Earlier this year we were all reminded of his comments from a 2006 Salon interview which ignited a fury:
“A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong,” Jeffries told Salon. “Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
Lululemon, with its cult-like Landmark Forum influence and don’t-be-mediocre Ayn Rand ideologies complete with an exhausting manifesto, is certainly operating in the exclusivity department. And that’s before you ever mention the lack of larger pants options, or that they’re 100 bucks.
“They’re basically saying, ‘To be healthy, to do yoga, to be a part of this manifesto, you have to look like this,’” petition writer Storm said.
Or maybe they’re just being cheap? HuffPo points out a 2005 interview with Lululemon founder and former CEO Chip Wilson who told the Calgary Herald that making plus-size clothes takes 30 percent more fabric so, naturally, they’d have to charge even more money for them. And being that plus-size people are so sensitive, he said, he would never do that because there would be a serious backlash from the community. Ya think?
“It’s a money loser, for sure,” Wilson told the Calgary Herald. “I understand their plight, but it’s tough.”
Good grief, man. But with old Chip gone and now CEO Christine Day jumping ship, we wonder if they’ll continue to feel the same way. Though it really is about the bottom line (you know they’re expanding to do straight up men’s stores now, right?) According to Margaret Bogenrief, co-founder and partner at ACM Partners, a boutique financial advisory firm, all this seemingly discriminatory stuff is just about doing good business.
“They hate unhealthy living, and for better or worse, plus-size people aren’t included in that,” she [Bogenrief] said, referring to the company’s culture. “Lululemon is very image conscious. That’s why women are shelling out $100 for a pair of pants they could get at Target for $20.”
Because everyone with a larger body is unhealthy, you see. And they just can’t have yicky, icky unhealthy looking people in Lululemon now can they? Why can’t we all just understand that?!
Except, in reality, people are expected to spend an estimated $332 million on athletic wear sold at plus-size women’s clothing stores this year, according to market research firm IBISWorld, and that doesn’t include plus-sized purchases from stores that carry all sizes. The plus-size apparel industry itself is a $14 billion industry and it continues to grow as brands like H&M and Forever21 add plus-size stores. Also, guess what? Plus-size people do yoga.
If you ask us, the Abercrombies and the Lululemons of the world can continue being the exclusionary fat-shamers they are and we’ll continue on living our lives without them, even if it is extremely disappointing that a yoga-inspired company would be so discriminatory to so many yogis (or even people who just want to dress like one in the supermarket.)
*what a fantastic name.
- Lululemon Sued for Shady Dealings Over See-Through Yoga Pants
- Lululemon CEO Christine Day Quits, Founder Chip Wilson Launches Tell-All Book, Meditation Project
- Business Insider on 12 Bizarrities of Lululemon, Women’s Lib and ‘Cult-like’ Success
- 10 Things You Won’t Hear at Lululemon