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Lululemon Founder Chip Wilson: ‘Some Women’s Bodies’ and Thighs ‘Don’t Work’ for Their Pants

in Business of Yoga, Lululemon Pantscapade

chip-wilson-lululemon-bloomberg2And just when you thought, with all the negative publicity, questionable marketing choices and customers still complaining of sub par yoga pants, it couldn’t get any worse for Lululemon’s image, founder Chip Wilson comes out with yet another way to offend people. Wilson, the stellar spokesperson and former CEO he is, told Bloomberg TV that ‘some women’s bodies just actually don’t work’ for lulu’s yoga pants. As in, if your thighs rub together you better get your pants elsewhere or stop complaining. Having already been accused of fat-shaming and not stocking larger sizes (and not really making larger sizes at all a la Abercrombie), this does not sit well, in any kind of easy seat.

Wilson and his wife Shannon sat down November 5th for an interview with Bloomberg TV to talk about whil, their new creepy 60 second “new face” of meditation method, or “maximizing pee time” non-product product or whatever it is Chip said, and ended up being asked about all those darn pants problems. Chip admitted the company “made a mistake” with the peek-a-boo yoga pants, but it’s not entirely their fault; women are just wearing them wrong. And some women maybe shouldn’t be wearing them at all.

Here’s how it went down:

“There’s always been pilling. The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don’t work [with the pants], or they’ll wear a purse that doesn’t work, or quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it.”

“So, more likely that they’ll be see-through on some women than others?” Bloomberg’s Trish Regan asked.

“Even our small size would fit an extra large. 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 responded.

“So not every woman can wear Lululemon yoga pants…” Regan asked.

“I think they can,” Wilson said. “It depends on how you use it.”

This is when his wife steps in to try and salvage the interview from further embarrassment. (You know that was a long ride home.) The conversation then turns to finding a replacement CEO, which they’re having trouble doing by the way, which we just can’t seem to understand. Also, fun fact, according to Chip, lululemon is a technology company, (not a yoga company?) in case you were confused.

Here’s the full video interview.

As you may have already guessed, people are not taking this lightly, and while some may simply find this perturbing, there are others who are taking things a big step further, like boycott further. Yes, concerned citizens have been calling for lulu boycotts for years now, but we’re beginning to think they may really start to catch on, occupy style, pretty soon. One movement in particular, led by activist and writer Maya Devi Georg, has taken to facebook to call for, not only a boycott, but a full on Apartheid-worthy sanction. Via her facebook page:

Just like Apartheid in South Africa ended after extreme sanctions and boycotts; these boycotts were not just of South African products, but also of any businesses associated or working with or within South Africa. While apartheid was an awful example of racism and segregation, Lululemon is promoting racist ideals and the political ideologies that support such actions. If we believe in equality, compassion, and the practice we need to engage in the same sanctions.

It is not enough to simply boycott the Lululemon stores. We must boycott magazines that carry their ads. We must boycott the conferences they sponsor.

We’re not entirely sure this will happen in large enough numbers, but there’s no denying the protest of the commercial pillaging of yoga has begun.

[via Huffington Post]



59 comments… add one
  • Malissa

    Why isn’t Walmart, target, nike, Adidas, new balance or any other brand being criticized for this?! It is almost impossible to find a good yoga pant that isn’t see through after you use/wash them a few times. This is not the only company that is guilty if this. If you don’t like their clothes or the way they fit…. Then don’t buy them. Problem solved.

    • Elizabeth

      My “old” (circa 2005) lululemon pants are not see-through. The fabric is considerably thicker than those I bought in 2011. I’m done buying them.

      Other pants I own that are stretchy and great for yoga, and NOT see through:
      Adidas (I think these were sold as running pants)
      Lole (love, love the fabric on these)
      Lucy (don’t know if all styles are as great as the one I have, fabric is thick)
      Roxy (and purple!)
      Oiselle (okay, I own shorts, but I bet the pants are just as great)
      C9 by Champion (bought at Target circa 2004?)

    • April

      Nike, target,NB don’t specialize in yoga pants… Whereas lulu does and thats why it’s a big issue… Not to mention the $80-$110 price tag….

    • lol

      ummm… this isn’t Fukushima. it’s just pants.

  • Manja

    I don’t see the problem with his comment, but if you wear a pant too small, it will be see through, it’s kind of a fact. I won’t wear 2 sizes smaller just because I want a pair of lulu-pants, if they don’t have my size I don’t buy one. And why deny the fact that, if someone is obese, that person is obese, you can’t say ow nooo, just a little heavy. I think if you don’t fit in lulu pants you should not be angry at lulu but at yourself and think about your own health, your own health comes first, why waist your precious time and energy for lululemon?

    • Rachel

      What if that person is just that? A little heavy? Or a human who eats well, runs 3 miles and practices yoga daily but is unable to slim down in their thighs or butt? There are so may different shapes of humans and often overweight does not mean unhealthy. Yet these healthy, overweight women are being told that the hippest yoga company does not support or care enough about them and their healthful endeavors.

      I also know women who want to take the first step towards weight loss and exercise through yoga practice. When they take the first brave step towards actually buying the garb in order to participate in the healthy activity, they might want a supportive staff member to show them options in the store that would best suit their needs. I don’t think anyone wants to put themselves into an uncomfortable situation and be turned away by the most well known yoga apparel company; it could be discouraging and detrimental to that individuals path to wellness. It could possibly be so humiliating to be turned away from a clothing store that sells self development and healthy living for ONLY already fit people, that these overweight folks feel like a different breed of human, one that is not worthy of being recognized by the yoga community.

      • Manja

        I know it was a little straight forward my reply and i knew i would get replies like this and I know people are not the same. But you don’t need lululemon, you don’t need their pants, you can wear whatever you want. So if they or an other brand don’t have your size, just buy somewhere else, don’t waste your time/energie.

      • Anne

        I’m sick of seeing people get upset about things not fitting right because they are too small. Guess what? Do something about it? I am 4’11” and have NEVER been able to buy a pair of pants off the rack and wear them without getting them hemmed first. Am I going to stop buying pants because of it? No, I’m not. At least the people who lulu’s stuff doesn’t fit have other options. Short girls like myself do not. Oh well life goes in. In all honesty I don’t see anything wrong with what he said I. The interview. He didn’t call anyone fat, and he didn’t point fingers.

        • Amy

          …isn’t “petites” a thing? Like, everywhere?

          • Anne

            Amy, they are still too long, I went into the “petite” section of Banana Republic and the pants are still too long by at least 2-3 inches.

    • Jocelyn

      If you are going to fat shame and try to prove your narrow-minded point, you should at least know the difference between waist and waste. Slim and stupid much?

      • C Daniels

        The rebuttle you were trying to make was totally ruined by your use of the word
        “stupid.” Also, if Lululemon cannot figure out how to make a profit on larger sizes, don’t expect them to be a charity that is obliged to cater to every body type. And if they tried to charge more for larger sizes, the same critics would be howling at the injustice. Better to let another company specialize in larger sizes, and charge at a price point that is profitable for them. That’s how it works.

  • John

    He produced quality gear it was difficult to find elsewhere. That gave him a reputation but not enough money. He cut the quality and used the reputation to make a lot of money and cashed in before the backlash. Now he’s just another mouthy rich idiot. The kit hasn’t been worth buying for a while.

    Transparent… they’re definitely not the only ones, and, as some one who has to spot a lot of straddle handstands… please just wear shorts over/under your leggings and have done with it.

    • Shaun

      and, as some one who has to spot a lot of straddle handstands… please just wear shorts over/under your leggings and have done with it.

      OH MY………..


  • Clementine

    Lululemon is my favorite brand of exercise clothes. I’m 5’8″ 122lbs and I wear a lulu size 4. I bought yoga pants this summer (July 2013) and I’ve worn them like a second skin everywhere and they’re perfect! They haven’t pilled at all (wash anything pill-prone inside out) and they’re not even the slightest bit see through. My thighs rub together too and just like well made jeans (Citizens of Humanity) there has been zero problem of pilling or over wear. I have lulu sports bras, run swiftly tops and volleyball super short shorts and my old faithful 4year old groove pants. These are all washed at least once a week, which can be pretty tough on clothes. Lulu is my favorite because it lasts so long, fits perfectly and never starts to smell gross like Nike pants do when they’ve been you’re go to running pant for a few years.
    However, I think Lululemon should offer plus-sized women an option so they don’t feel like the only way they’re getting lulu is by squeezing into the largest size lulu has to offer.

  • Amy

    I read the article… and I’m very glad I also watched the video. I feel your article manipulated what was said – I really don’t think there is too much wrong with what was spoken. Chip specifically said all women can wear their pants – and it’s just how you wear them that is important (i.e what they’re rubbing against). I buy lululemon, I also buy Teeki, Beyond Yoga, VKeen, etc etc… and they all wear very well. I love them all. My lululemon leggings are not see through and never have been.

    And, I did work for lululemon some time ago, and whilst there were some things that did not sit well with me working for the company, I can certainly say that I gained some wonderful experiences through working from them. They do push the boundaries in the media, which keeps people talking about them, which in turn keeps them in the lime light, and keeps their brand big.

    I’m not for or against them. I love certain products of theirs, I do not like others. But I have to say that I have worn their products a million times, and the quality has always been impeccable. No complaints at all. No company is perfect 100% of the time.

    No need to pick apart the interview and hype it up to dramatize.
    Each to their own.

    There is no judgement in yoga.

    • Stacy


    • Christina

      No judgement in yoga – except the judgment that you’re too fat to do yoga in lulu lemon pants.

      Also, this dude is clearly a tool – no manipulation of his words needed. Someone who us extra large can fit in extra small? I don’t think so. I wear a size large in every other article of clothing, and can barely fit in their size large pants.

      • Val

        Lulu pants don’t have a size large. They go up to a 12. I can get into an 8, however I buy the 10. I weigh 188 lbs and about 5’7.

      • Amy

        Who said the words “you are too fat to do yoga in lululemon pants”? Chip Wilson did not in the video above.

        Please know I do respect your views… as I said I’m not For or Against them. But I do feel that sometimes people can take other peoples words and hype them up.

        I agree that it’s a bit silly to say that an extra large can fit into their small. And if someone were to do this then they would absolutely be see through!! In my time working for them I saw many women trying to squeeze into their pants 1 -2 sizes too small, instead of going for the appropriate size. This can create the sheerness of the fabric.

        I agree with a lot of the concerns around some of the incidents with lululemon in general over the past year or two, but I do feel that many have been exaggerated, unresearched, or there is unreliable sources.

        Important to note… a tonne of companies do not make clothing for ‘larger’ sizes. A company cannot make everyone happy (I’m talking purely about size here). And even if they did, maybe a larger women wouldn’t like the style, or the fit anyhow. I know many women who came in to the store I used to work at some time ago (I was there for 6 months) used to say that they would not be comfortable wearing the Wunder Under tights, because they’re too clingy.

        Anyhow, thank you for your response 🙂

  • Clive DC

    There is no judgement in yoga? Its called discernment, and without it you can’t be honest with yourself and truly follow the path.

    And what about the company mocking a domestic abuse charity, child labor, and outright racism? Those factors are much more imprtant than how Luon is made.

    • Amy

      Thanks Clive. I agree. Discernment is important. And I do not deny that a lot of that is going on. But people can also fall into judgement (which comes from a very different place).

      And I’m certainly not denying the final point you made. There are many many companies out there engaging child labor. I’m not sure I know about the racism issue? Could I trouble you to clarify, and maybe source some reliable references? I’d be genuinely interested in learning about this.

      It’s definitely not all about how luon is made. In fact, it is nothing to do with that.

      Thanks again for your input! 🙂

      • Semper Fi

        This is a great conversation piece! Too many modern yoga practitioners find these airy fairy rules like “no judgements” and “this is un yogic.” The Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, and Hatha Yoga Pradipika don’t focus on any of this nonsense. Those texts focus on a serious practitioner using ancient technology to realize oneself. If there is any judgement in yoga it is your judgement of yourself and how you refine your own impurities by living ethically, doing asana/pranayama, and evolving to the higher states of consciousness. Yoga is not for the body people! It’s for you to see your true self…no matter what size you are.

  • Karen

    I love how all of these judgmental “yogis” are stepping up to fat shame, in utter denial of Lulu’s blatant discrimination against anyone over a size 10/12. I’m about 99% certain if you size 0’s, 2’s and 4’s were heavier, you wouldn’t be so quick to judge.

  • Who cares? He can make clothes for whomever he wants. He doesn’t want to make clothes for me because I’m a size 10? I’m cool with that.

    That said, there are way better places for me to spend my hard-earned money. I’ll continue to shun most big-name yoga/athletic brands and instead buy my clothes second-hand from my friend who owns a resale shop, or I’ll continue to buy my comfy yoga clothes from Decent Exposures, where everything is handmade by a small staff using organic cotton.

  • Kaitlyn

    I just bought my first pair a month ago, I have a thigh gap and have only worn these pants out and on the couch so far. The pilling in the crotch is unbelievable. Its not on the gusset, so clearly there is a different fabric being used there that does not pill. Taking them back this sunday. My nike yoga pants do not pill and are not see through either.

  • Jennifer

    Misleading title & poorly executed. Shame on your journaling skills.
    He didn’t say what you quoted he said, Regan did! This is an example of what media only seems to do now, pigeon hole a person into being ‘bad’.

    Lulu is Lulu… That’s all. You get what you pay for! Free market folks, capitalism…it’s that simple. Life isn’t fair. I think the uproar over this company is pure jealousy and bitterness targeted to & from a group of people who simply don’t fit their culture. Where does it say anywhere that all capitalism should be made fair & equal for all parties? Where is it noted that all thoughts and ideas (business model) HAVE to work for everyone?
    Remember back in the day when the PanAm stewardesses (yes stewardesses) we’re kind and lovely? Now you get bitchy, bitter, snappy “flight attendants” (us airways mostly but not limited to).
    I once (13yrs ago) wanted to sue Victoria Secret for not making a bra small enough to fit my 36aa frame.. Know what I did…got a boob job! And now, I don’t even shop there!
    Quit the whining, get over it, go meditate…
    Yes, I am a tall, slender, size 6 yoga instructor (thank you Daddy for my genes and for the will of my spirit to exercise daily). I do not buy Lulu anymore, mainly cause I’m over it and there are better products avail, just as expensive, not even mentioned in the clip. Why? Because I can. If I couldn’t, I’d be at target buying their yoga pants which are just as functional, minus the stigma! I wouldn’t be whining about how unfair and ruly they’re being.
    The lack of accountability in this era is astounding me….
    Phew, that felt good!

  • Jan

    I can’t believe some of the comments here. Further proof that the mainstream “yoga community” are insanely protective of keeping the status quo and being gatekeepers of their corporate darlings. No fat people please, no people of color please, no LGBT please, no discussing of “controversial” issues. Let’s keep it white, skinny and female, shall we?
    Screw Lululemon, and Chip Wilson, and their creepy Landmark seminars, their slavish devotion to a delusional right-wing racist apologist like Ayn Rand, their sub-par see-through pants and their questionable production facilities and workforce in places like China.

    You wanna buy Lulu? Go right ahead but when history looks back on how populations are easily fooled and manipulated by corporate culture and brands, don’t blame anyone but yourself for falling for the myth.

    • Staycie

      Thank you for this response. The blind acceptance and the hushed denial of the corporatization of yoga is disheartening, to say the least. I can see how these self appointed “spokespeople” can be a turn yoga off to people who really need it…like low-income, overworked, stressed, and overweight folks. It has been a challenge to introduce yoga to community where the perception is yoga is for rich, skinny, white women.

  • Erin

    Wow. Just wow. And I’m not talking about the article itself, but some of the comments. Commercialized and privileged yoga culture at its finest.

  • Anika

    Some of these comments are truly cringe-worthy, just dripping with thin-privilege, white-privilege and economic entitlement and real indication that they really don’t” get” yoga.
    Go back to the mall and the gated-communities Ladies. When the yoga gravy-train stops, you’ll be the first ones to scuttle back into your gyms, gymnastic classes, tennis lessons, ski lessons and calisthenics.

  • Jennifer

    I’m really intrigues by this conversation, I often do not take the time to participate in forums etc, but for some reason this moves me.
    Part of true “yoga” is acceptance…not to buy into the illusion that is presented to you or that others live in. We live in America, a culture that has been commercialized and capitalized, this is half the reason some come here and are amazed at our freedoms i.e. capitalism and choice over Lulu or Target. I do not condone nor oppose any of it; it simply is.
    If the markets of capitalism do not suit your yoga practice, than that is for you accept and let go; not to ridicule and judge. Right? Laugh and say “wow, I’m glad I’m not ‘that’, whatever ‘that’ is to you, and than see the judgment in yourself over whatever ‘that’ is.
    Someone quoted Ayn Rand above, lest we forget her novel prophesies on how big government tried to own the ideas of others while preventing them from thinking for themselves; this would put Chip Wilson in the “new world”. Maybe this is where some of you would prefer they be; along with John Friend, Kathryn Budig, and a slew of other yogi’s who are human and have failed or are who are beautiful and sexy.
    The TRUE practice of yoga is off the mat and in your life; not the physical posture but the spiritual practice.
    And another short reminder, Lulu is a clothing company, not a yoga company.

    • Jan

      Jennifer, just the fact that you can condone what someone like Ayn Rand epouses, automatically classifies you as someone with a sophomoric mind at best. It’s not just a question of blowing off an ideology like Rand’s by “Laugh and say “wow, I’m glad I’m not ‘that’,”. Rand’s ideologies hurt people. Literally. Whatever she preached was actually AGAINST compassion and the antagonism of it and THAT is unyogic.
      Google Jeffrey Sachs before you watch this esp. at 2:54-5:00

  • Linda

    More serious the fact that they ethical yoga pants are made in Bangladesh and they still have not signed The Bangladesh Safety Accord (the legally-binding, five-year Accord will see factories undergo safety inspections, mandatory repairs and renovations, and creates an obligation for companies to help pay for any safety upgrades.)

  • Heather

    Wow, I am REALLY disappointed in you Lululemon. My girls LOVED I repeat LOVED your product and you know what? We don’t have THAT kind of body but I would much rather buy 10 cheap pair than to support ideals such as yours. You don’t BASH the petite customers, actual offer free hemming on any NON mesh style. We Petites don’t FIT your product but you managed to accommodate that “short” coming. Hypocrites!

    • VQ2

      Solving that “other problem”? — offering “reasonable-magnitude” free-to-low-cost garment let-outs.

      Bridal studios do that sort of thing all the time …

      But naaaah.

      Size-bigotry in action.

  • Jennifer

    Hi Jan,
    Interesting… I was not condoning either points of view from Ayn Rand, or capitalism. I think her novel was poignant in many ways from a novelist’s perspective. Not as truth or fact.
    I am saying if it doesn’t work for you, accept it. We are free in America to choose our beliefs.

  • Karen

    I went to the website and looked at the range, and must confess that all I can think is, “Wow. There are people who can afford to spend that amount on stretchy trousers.”

    Plain ordinary tracksuit bottoms and sweatpants with a bit of stretch work fine, as do shorts over leggings.

    Serious question: Is this an American thing? Because in Britain, yoga’s always had a more cosy, frumpy kind of image. Yoga classes are often offered via the local education authority, so you’re in community centres, schools and church halls, and it’s usually people in their late 30s and up (at least outside of the cities) and of varying body types. It’s quite odd from a rural English perspective to read about all these very expensive gadgets and garments and classes. Is it really representative, or is it just the extreme, newsworthy end of the spectrum?

    • Semper Fi

      I am happy that people in other countries can clearly see the idiocy of the American consumer much sharper than we Yanks. I am beginning to feel that the only demographic in Americab yoga is the rich entitled white housewife.

  • S.

    What cracks me up is that Chip’s foot in mouth totally negated his watered down meditation spiel. I literally mean watered down because he says he meditates when he pees. Here is Lululemon in a nutshell: rip off spiritual traditions that are 1000s of years old, find a wealthy tractible population like thin housewives, manipulate them into buying $100 see through yoga pants, profit!!!

  • Jennifer

    Thank you S.
    And THAT is capitalism!
    Agree with them or not, but it’s what this country was founded on. Maybe now abused but that’s a whole’ other story!

    • Cherry

      Umm…..Jennifer do you realize that S. was being ironic?

      • C D

        And yet her point is right on. It IS Capitalism, including what’s wrong with it. But I don’t agree that our country was founded on capitalism. Our economic system was developed slowly, and the Founders saw nothing wrong with heavy government involvement or presence in the market, just as long as it didn’t involve tryanical royalty.
        But Lululemon is not under any obligation to create clothing in sizes that it cannot make a profit on. They are not a charity.

        • VQ2

          Planet Lulu (a.k.a. Vancouver) is located in semi-“socialist” territory: i.e., Canada. They’ve had single-payer government health insurance for decades …

      • jennifer

        Yes Cherry, I did realize that, and regardless her ironic statement which holds many truths in jest, IS capitalism.

  • James

    I don’t see the big deal. When I couldn’t find a pair of Nike running shoes that fit my foot I just looked at other companies until I found a pair of Adidas that work. I didn’t pitch a fit about how Nike is “shaming” my foot or whatever.

    When AG quit making blue jeans that fit me right I didn’t take to the streets about how terrible they are. I just found a new company with a product that I like.

    Lululemon is not a required garment. I’m embarrassed that there is this much bitching over a company’s decision to make a certain product a certain way. It’s time to grow up, girls. The world does not revolve around you.

    • mettamary

      Hmmm… perhaps it is time for you to engage in a meaningful conversation with women about why they feel so frustrated at being jerked around by unscrupulous clothing manufacturers? When was the last time you had to shop for women’s workout gear? And the same system that judges women by the size of their thighs judges men by the size of their, shall we say, Nikes….
      so isn’t it better to strive for a better way of being?

      • James

        I fail to see your point. I have to confess that I’ve never shopped for women’s workout gear. Were I to shop for women’s workout gear I doubt Lululemon would be the only brand available to me. In my experience searching for yoga-specific men’s clothing I have seen so many more brands, patterns, fits, styles, and choices for women that I almost feel like men are intentionally excluded.

        Women have so many choices for workout gear that it’s ridiculous to suggest that they must put up with unscrupulous brands. The “I must own Lululemon” mentality is more a credit to Lulu’s marketing department than an indictment of its business practices. I don’t like Lululemon. I don’t shop there. I do, however, respect the fact that they have tricked an entire gender into thinking that it’s Lulu or nothing. That’s impressive.

        I’m trying to understand your comparison between women’s thighs and men’s penises. If I ever found a brand that made my penis look fatter I would buy every article of clothing they make. 🙂

  • mindy

    you are quite attached to brands, eh? time to take your yoga to the next level.

    btw, wore the same pants all the time for five years, including through teacher training, and no pilling, smelling or see-thru issues. they fit great and i didn’t spend more than $40. i used a permanent marker to black out the swoosh logo…. it is no one’s business who made my clothes and i don’t offer free advertising.

  • Kris

    I am 5’6″ and 114 lbs and the new pants are see through on me. The old ones weren’t. Clearly, my thighs aren’t the issue.

  • Susie

    Funny they also call themselves a “leadership” company, grooming leaders. It’s a horrible shame that one of their employees killed her coworker with her bare hands in Maryland. So much for leadership, kill others because you want to steal your company’s merchandise. I hate that place and he makes me sick.

  • PK

    My lulu pants haven’t downgraded in fabric quality, despite many purchases over the years. I have bought different types of fabric, which have different qualities though. As for fit? Walmart and Brooks Brothers – they don’t make anything that fits my body size or shape at all. It doesn’t matter how fat or thin I am when I try that on. Let’s rally! Just kidding. Some pants from lulu look good on me, some don’t. I’m a size 8-10 there. If I find something that fits well at a store, good for me. If not, then I leave.

  • Moyne

    It’s not issue of women’s bodies “not working” for this product. It’s this product not working for some women’s bodies. The bodies are not a problem. And let’s stop buying products that don’t work for our bodies!

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