≡ Menu
YogaDork

Should Lululemon Be Held Accountable? Yoga Community and Lulu Execs Go Head to Head on Leadership, Diversity and Social Responsibility

in Events, YD News
lululemon-otm-talk-leadership

Our view from the back row. “The Practice of Leadership” at the Yoga Journal Conference, NYC, April 26, 2014

This past Saturday, yogis, bloggers and Lululemon executives came together to talk leadership, social responsibility and major public f*ck ups (there are many) in front of a group of 100-ish select attendees at the Yoga Journal Conference in NYC. (We say select because we signed up over two weeks in advance and never heard a peep of admittance either way. No matter, we were there and this is how it went down).

Packed in a relatively small room (compared to the rest of the many Hilton ballrooms) the doors were closed, the room was on lockdown, the air was thick with pranic anticipation and curiosity. The topic of the hour, “The Practice of Leadership,” an ongoing series hosted by Off the Mat, Into the World. (The next session on body image is slated for the YJ Conference in San Diego.)

The event’s description read:

“In this session, we will take on the delicate balance of spiritual values and corporate responsibility featuring community leaders, social change activists and lululemon leadership. It will be an open and honest dialogue that gets at the heart of our practice, our role as conscious leaders and how to create community in conflict.”

With such a broad subject, discussion about social responsibility and corporate leadership sounded pretty valid, even promising. But that’s where things got a bit muddy. What was the real question? What answer was everyone looking for? Why was Lululemon even here? Were they going to be eaten alive? Do we care?

Sure, Lululemon folks were walking into a lion’s den, and Seane Corn repeatedly thanked them for being there “because they didn’t have to be,” as did a few others several times throughout the discussion. But, wait,  it’s not like this scene was so foreign to them — Lululemon has been a major sponsor of the Yoga Journal conferences for years, after all — they were already very much there. In fact, the reason this whole thing started was because Lululemon approached Seane Corn to participate in a leadership training program they planned to hold at the YJ Conferences. (Those familiar with Lulu at conferences/festivals know that they like to hold lifestyle-y workshops for things like goal setting and leadership). Seane Corn, being the fiery freedom fighter she is, said hell no and, instead, invited them to come talk with the community about their leadership. Well, she actually said:

“I told them that I couldn’t be a part of a training program they were hosting, unless they themselves were willing to model true leadership, which includes ownership. Their lack of transparency and silence around the controversy in 2013 was irresponsible. I was pretty certain the conversation would end there. I was very surprised when instead, they demonstrated to me a true willingness to listen, and a desire to ‘make right.’”

So if any praise should be given here it shouldn’t be to the Lulu execs who managed to muster up their courage and “opened their minds” enough to want to stick their necks out (because, really, imagine if they didn’t show up?), it should, instead, be given to the organizers, Off the Mat, the panelists (many in the community who have led this ongoing conversation) and the people who cared enough to show up in the audience to listen and participate. We can say with certainty that there were no yogis crouched and ready to throw paint on the metaphorical fur wearers, Peta style.  No, it seemed everyone attending was generally interested in what Lululemon had to say, and a discussion of what now? What next?

Before you read any further, let this question swirl through your cerebrums for a moment:

Do you feel Lululemon (a corporation) should be held responsible for upholding yogic values, diversity and inclusivity?

(See what your fellow yogis said at the bottom of the page.)

Because this was a 90-minute talk, we’ll give you the highlights.

First, let’s just say we’re pretty sure Seane Corn could lead a pack of popsicles into a hot vinyasa yoga class, she’s that vibrant and charismatic in her words and presence. No wonder Lululemon has been courting her. Corn began the discussion with an intro and explanation of her own issues with Lulu’s lack of transparency and inclusivity, and unfortunate marketing choices (ie. Ayn Rand). We have to love Seane because her intention is pure, her words motivational and her heart in the right place, even if her vision seems, at times, a bit too rose-colored idealist.

Transparency. Accountability. Leadership. Values. Four big words on the menu for the discussion. The talk started at 1:30pm. By the time everyone got through intros, it was already 30 minutes later. The real discussion started when OTM’s Hala Khouri took the mic and began asking questions, opening up the forum.

MARKETING SNAFUS

What’s happening internally around the questionable marketing tactics, the lack of options for curvier women, for communities of color?  Is it really a conflict for you? What’s your process been as leaders and are you willing to take risks? Or are you limited by having to please investors?

Rachel Acheson, Lululemon’s VP of Brand & Community responded regarding marketing materials: “We acknowledge there’s work to be done there,” and said that by going global they will be able to grow and expand, racially as well.

Lulu CEO Laurent Potdevin echoed this sentiment when he said, they will  “continue to reach for something bigger and better” and that “going global will be the catalyst.”

The catalyst for what exactly, is unclear. The Lulu team appeared interested in hearing about what everyone thought was wrong with the brand, but the interest really seemed more from a standpoint of how to best sell their yoga pants to ethnic communities around the world rather than how to reach out to the underserved and plus-sized yoga practitioner.

— But, again, they’re selling yoga pants, so why should they have to be anything otherwise? Oh, that’s right, because they try to be. —

Panelist Alanna Kaivalya (who’s been very vocal about her views) didn’t waste any time in pointing out how concerned she is that “people are being introduced to yoga through a corporation” whose top goal is to make money for shareholders, with the number one shareholder being one Chip Wilson. “We keep talking about values…what are these values? Based in Landmark Forum and Ayn Rand?” she asked. “My values are based in yoga. Ok with me if you stick with making clothes and let us do the yoga,” Kaivalya said.

(We’ll note here that nothing else was mentioned nor answered regarding the above questions around Landmark Forum, Ayn Rand or how Lululemon defines their “values” in relation to yoga.)

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVITY AND THE FACE OF YOGA

What will you do as a company to be more diverse and inclusive? Are you even interested in doing that? Does it matter?

Potdevin piped in to ask about diversity in the marketplace — “Who does that well? What does that look like?” — as if it was a good enough excuse that no other corporations are being socially responsible and investing in diversity so why blame them for doing the norm? He followed that up with, “Our products are not for everybody. What we do in community is for everybody.”

But panelist Natalia Mehlman Petrzela pointed out that the issue isn’t necessarily that the clothing isn’t available to everyone as a luxury brand, but that the rhetoric and marketing messages claim to be everything for everybody.

— Here’s where, if you’re wondering why we should care about what the hell Lululemon has to do with diversity and inclusivity in yoga, we can offer that it’s probably because they are one of the biggest influences on representation and the face of yoga. —

When the talk turned to diversity, panelist Leslie Booker (Yoga Activist), the only African American on the panel (and one of the maybe 6 or 7 other ethnic people in the room) shared how she always has to explain to people in her yoga classes that the practice isn’t just for one type of person, ie. the skinny, flexible, white woman. She pushed the concept of yoga’s image and demanded that there be some responsibility taken for the “face of yoga” representing what yoga looks like, by the biggest institutions like Lululemon, not forgetting to mention the most popular yoga publication in the country, Yoga Journal.

This is where the conversation took an interesting, dare we say progressive, shift.

Panelist Carol Horton (Think Body Electric) stepped in with her invaluable academic insight, offering that as much as it would be nice to separate yoga from consumerism/Lululemon it’s not that easy. She wondered aloud, as if to bring us all back down to the ground again, how we could create win/win strategies to do something good in the world with the help of mega-million companies like Lulu. She suggested that this talk wasn’t necessarily getting to the “deeper issue of socioeconomic equality,” and she asked us all to take a look beyond yoga pants, to our own communities and personal actions. “We have to be proactive, creative outside of corporate world in yoga service community,” Horton said. The room seemed to collectively nod in agreement.

As for the representation and “face” of yoga, Horton pointed out how important imagery is — “we are a visual culture” — but “could we convey the depth of the inner experience of yoga and make it more accessible? What if people in the corporation were trained about the world, how yoga fits within the world?”

Igniting one of those “Men in Black” zoom effects, Horton’s statements took the conversation from this cramped conference room full of “privileged” yogis to the much broader picture of service and accessibility. Not everyone can afford $90 yoga pants, but how can we leverage the popularity and veritable ubiquity of a brand for the purpose of good?

WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR?

Seane Corn: What does Lululemon, as a collective, stand for? What’s the energetic bottom line? 

We’d like to say there was a clear answer here, but there wasn’t, which pretty much sums up where Lululemon stands at the moment, with a new CEO, a tattered public image and an unclear future. But they held their own, even if a lot of the questions were tip toped around and answers began with,”Let me just start by saying…” which is the classic redirect. But who can blame them? They’ve had a (relatively) shitty year, their marketing team can be found somewhere nosed between an Ayn Rand book and their own groove pants’d booties and the yoga world isn’t quite sure who their beloved lemons are anymore.

Perhaps the most memorable moment from the Lulu side came when Acheson admitted that as a company, “We lost some of our core values in the last year. We lost some of our quality and we lost our integrity.”

Potdevin was proud that Lululemon is “not 300 stores but one store 300 times,” adding that “authenticity and corporation are not mutually exclusive.”

Another favorite moment came when the floor opened up to questions from the audience. Stepping up to the mic was a lululemon shareholder – surprise! She mentioned how she’s not a customer because she’s “not the right size.” Ouch. But being invested in the company, literally, (and also a yogi?) she offered two points of advice: 1. Lululemon needs to take a look at how they define marketing and how they operate in the community, and 2. they need to think about the ambassador community and what areas are lacking attention.

Another audience member gave us all some good questions to ponder: What do we actually mean by “yoga community”? And inclusivity? Are we really benefitting that particular group of people?

Seane Corn ended the talk by saying it’s all just the beginning. She challenged Lululemon to be radical and to change the business model, to be sustainable and conscious and to be, well, a leader. She left us all with a call to challenge ourselves, to hold ourselves accountable.

All in all, it was too much to cover in too little time in a too small setting. Why not open it up to the larger community? Or host a Q&A online? Perhaps this is down the road, but perhaps we will have all moved on by then…to other companies who mirror and align with our individual values and ideals.

Post Script:

Some Qs for thought: Did Lululemon need to be part of this discussion? Could there have been just as much conversation or maybe even better conversation without them? Should we just forget about trying to rope them into our ideals of conscious consumerism? Or are they already too intertwined to ignore? Could they become a better force for good?

We asked this question of the hour on facebook and twitter Saturday afternoon: Do you feel Lululemon (a corporation) should be held responsible for upholding yogic values, diversity and inclusivity?

The majority of answers ranged from:

  • Yes, they claim to be a “yoga” company, and if they really are, then they should be held accountable.
  • Yes, they are too immersed in the culture and add to fears for people intimidated by trying yoga. They must take responsibility.
  • No, they sell yoga pants, they’re a private business and no one is being forced to buy their products.
  • No and Lululemon needs to step away from being a “yoga” company in general.
  • It’s not lululemon, it’s the practitioners and customers. We have the power to choose.
  • Who cares? I’m over it.

Please feel free to keep the dialogue going and share your opinion in the comments.

Post-panel remarks from Natalia Melhman Petrzela, who’s written about the “blame it on the ladies” Lulu pants problem:

“I was impressed lulu top brass was willing to engage (and publicly!) with those of us who have been so critical of them. However, I don’t think we were able to delve deep enough into the issues or truly dialog because there were too many panelists, too little time.”

Full list of panelists:

Seane Corn, Facilitator, Founder Off the Mat, Into the World
Hala Khouri, Facilitator, Founder Off the Mat, Into the World
Laurent Potdevin, CEO, lululemon athletica
Delaney Schweitzer, EVP, Retail Operations, lululemon athletica
Rachel Acheson, VP Brand & Community, lululemon athletica
Carol Horton, Blogger and Author of Yoga PhD
Alanna Kaivalya, Author of Myths of the Asanas and Sacred Sound
Leslie Booker, Yoga Activist
Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Professor and Wellness Activist
Andrea Marcum, Founder of U Studio Yoga

——

Earlier

47 comments… add one
  • S.

    Nice journalistic work YD! I am a staunch critic of Lululemon, but I have to give them credit for showing up to the dialogue. The reality is that Lulu is there because their stock is down about half of what it was a year ago. The bottom line is Lululemon needs to stop being a voice of the yoga community. On their Facebook page, they have posts like “how to scorpion” showing a lithe skinny white woman easily getting into the pose in five photographs. As benign as this seems, most people cannot attain Vrichikasana (scorpion pose). Subconsciously, it sets up this thin veil that leads women into thinking that if they cannot attain the pose as easy as the model makes it look, then they “less than.” Subsequently, they are motivated to buy the $100 pants the model is wearing. It sickens me how yoga is used for this purpose of manipulating people. I like how the shareholder wants to start going after the Ambassadors. They are the vanguard of Lululemon’s propaganda machine.

    • mike

      “…showing a lithe skinny white woman easily getting into the pose in five photographs.”

      How is that different than Yoga Journal? YJ’s history of allowing persons of color on the cover is “Sterlingesque” at best.

  • Elliene

    Anyone who would pay $100 for a pair of glorified pajama pants to wear for rolling on the floor and sweating in is PT Barnum’s dream.

    Lululemon’s (and, for that matter, any publicly traded corporation’s) only obligation is to its shareholders. As for their “faking” a spiritual/yogic philosophy to sell more overpriced, poor-quality pants…so what? Every Big Food on the face of the planet has its “healthy!” or “lite!” or “natural!” line of edible products that deceive the naive into believing sugar-free caramel crunch chia seed granola bars are going to make them slim and health…if the naive can be deceived into emptying their wallets in the quest for a “yoga butt” or a Zen moment that only $98 “Groove Pants” can delivered, then the company has done its job.

  • ReginaS

    As far as including diversity, how about asking Lululemon staff members that are of a different ethnicity their opinion, (assuming there are non-white employees of Lulu somewhere) and using models of different races. But then again, trying to be global with a company whose name from the beginning was chosen because it would be “funny to see (Asians) pronounce” (Ru-ru remon) according to Chip Wilson, set itself up for failure among global ethnicities from the get-go. Upon learning this, I (a yogi of an ethnic background) stopped buying LLL products years ago. (http://business.financialpost.com/2013/12/10/lululemon-athletica-chip-wilson-controversy/)

    I don’t think LLL should try to have a personal connection to the market with “yoga values” if they are so obviously not about that. They should just be what they are – a merchant that supplies yoga/running/work out clothes. Honestly, I’ve bought $6 “yoga pants” from Forever 21 that may not have “super moisture-wicking technology” or whatever, but they don’t ride up/fall down/fit my big ass/move when I move/don’t give me a camel t…, you get the idea. At least they know they are just a clothing store. Heck – who really actually needs clothes to practice yoga anyways? There’s definitely something to naked yoga–at least they’re honest and strip away (figuratively/literally) any pretentious bs about what clothes to practice yoga in.

    PS: Way to go on the reporting, YD! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your recap, along with opening dialogue for the YD community to discuss. xx

  • Well done piece YD! And well done Sean Corn bringing this topic to a forum like this. I have held that consumerism doesn’t belong in yoga. However, in our world today, that ideal can be like swimming up stream. LLL is not where I choose to spend my money or my time. I don ‘t feel that they are authentic. Just be a clothing retailer for goodness sake ! Each of us can speak our piece with our dollar when we need to purchase clothing , etc.

  • P.

    LLL is just another big brand following their own vision. They are entitled to do what they want, just as much as we as customers are entitled to walk away if we don’t like something about it. If they want to cater to the elitist, skinny, bendy women, that is fine by me.
    Do you think Karl Lagerfeld would like to see an overweight, ahem curvy, woman wear his designs?
    While I did have an argument with Chip Wilson, back in the day when they only had one store in the US, about one of the ads, I overcame this negativity and liked the quality of the products (yes sweat-absorbing & non-stinky material is very important to me).
    Unfortunately this quality declined rapidly after the initial years (also the silverscent top lacked probably silver and started to smell quickly) and I am saddened they never reproduced my luon shorts; I have a pair I have been using regularly 3-4 times a week since 2003! And guess what, my bum is not shining through! What cannot be said of the hordes of women squeezing themselves into leggings two sizes too small, just to satisfy their wish thinking.
    If there is a true minority issue there, is they have not anymore good yogawear for men.

  • Kelly

    Lululemon does not have a responsibility to uphold yogic values.
    They sell clothes. Lots of yoga clothes, which are popular right now and so they market them to the people who want to sell them. It’s marketing. In fact they sell quite a bit of running clothes too, and market that portion of their athletic merchandise to runners with the appropriate runner-related advertising. The only areas which require their accountability are their relations with shareholders and to their consumer base in providing high quality clothing that meets the needs of their target group. Their CHOICE is to attempt to market a lifestyle, because it’s lucrative. Even if the corporate higherups practice yoga and attempt to follow the many varied precepts, they are all still humans, and the company is still a company.

    • Emma

      I could not have said it better myself.

      Corporations are players in Capitalism. Capitalism isn’t a system built on a foundation of ethical accountability; which varies in definition across the globe to begin with. Economic success and market theory isn’t structured in a way that necessarily aligns itself with what many consider “moral”. To think otherwise is naive and idealistic- and that’s where the true irresponsibility in this situation can be found.

    • Vision_Quest2

      Yeah, like they say – about those executives – you could be a badass at asana and still be an a–shole. Chip’s epiphany and vision for Lululemon about “strong, athletic women liberated by the pill and careers, with yoga bodies” will outlive whatever is done in the service of damage control …

  • Laura

    They are a clothing company, first and foremost. If they want to promote healthy living through yoga, running, etc, go ahead, but I do not consider the company a voice for yoga in any way. I live inVancouver where the company started and their presence beyond a clothing store is not significant here. I just wish they had the guts to admit their quality has declined significantly over the years.

  • A.

    As a Latin woman who is underrepresented in the yoga world, I feel it is most certainly the responsibility of companies that have profited the most from the surge in yoga’s popularity to be responsible and consistent with the yogic message. Diversity is important. I am not only speaking of race, I also mean able-bodiedness and age. The first thing that I learned when I stepped into a yoga studio is “no judgements” and to “be comfortable with yourself where you are”; basically the complete opposite of what LLL has been touting (especially in the past year). I have worked in the fashion industry and I understand the “image” based propaganda that they try to sell you, but it is my hope that a company like LLL who has their business so deeply rooted in communities by “wooing” and dressing ambassadors, would set the standard for the rest of the yoga industry. Is it required for them to exist? No. They can be just like any other company in the corporate world; but if large companies like LLL don’t take a stand and use their voice and far reaching influence as an opportunity to change the corporate point of view that exists today, then who will?

  • I really feel that there is a win/win here, lemons into lemonade so to speak. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but you can please some. Lulu will (either by choice, or this continued public relations nightmare) make an effort to give back, and move forward with more sensitivity. There are more and more Yoga NGO’s popping up in the poorest parts of the world, spinning a globe and picking one won’t please everyone, but it would make a lasting impacting on something like the African Yoga Project (or the zillion others).

    • Vision_Quest2

      Sounds like a tepid solution, so been-there done-that (by commercialized yoga, itself) and so reeks of NIMBY to those who are not the target-market socioeconomic classes.

      Better to just go back to a (retooled) drawing board–and as already suggested elsewhere, go and market to the ones left: equally upscale, cultish, exhibitionist and competitive (in fact, Lulu’s dream Educator pool, save for the circumference of their thighs–but they’ll get over THAT) as a fitness market. Those Cross-Fitters!!

      Not only that, but the workout is equally clannish, nearly as philosophical (anybody would be if they were trying to avoid rupture in their “scalable” like yoga is – that’s a laugh re: both disciplines these days – workouts)… and takes maybe a half-hour per session, as opposed to 75 to 90 minutes in this time-crunched society.

      They couldn’t LOSE!

      • As someone who is not of the target “class”(peep the twitter). I believe that if we are all talking about the mistakes they made in their business practices and what they need to do to make things right, then there is belief that the company can do better. Albeit small.

        That means there is a chance.

  • Ryan Palisade

    Sounds like a lot of stories and rackets. One question, what’a your payoff?

    • Answer: None.

      As long as the Yoga community keeps talking online, we are moving forward to talking offline as well, and bringing/sharing those conversations and stories online, like a circle.

      Any hope that can rally people for the greater good, is good.

  • lisa

    I don’t know of this company. Many people do have this idea yoga is for fit skinny folk. When I always express how I started with a back injury and starting from zero. I have always thought of yoga as a therapy. Yea yoga instructors can do insane poses. That seems to be everyone’s goal now. To be in incredible poses when yoga is more than that. And it truly is a sport for those who can’t balance and are not flexible or maybe even hurt. Since it is low impact but so strengthening.

  • I’m a plus sized yoga teacher/student and I’ve never been a fan of lululemon, but when accusations of sizeism come up, I always feel like I need to defend them.

    Yes, their size 12 barely fits many size 10 women. Yes, they glorify the aspirational yoga body in their marketing and their founder has said some pretty inflammatory things about curvier bodies. But their size range is not unique…virtually every brand of yoga apparel stops at a size 10/12/14. (Athleta, Nux and Soybu are the notable exceptions, along with some new plus sized lines launching in the last year or so.) We can certainly criticize lulu for their manufacturing policies, for their corporate avarice or other business practices not philosophically aligned with yoga. When it comes to the issue of sizing, however, check your favorite brands’ size charts or try shopping for a size 16 friend (let alone a size 22 friend) before you cast too many stones. Lululemon’s sizing is the rule, not the exception.

  • mc

    i find it amusing that yoga journal conference put on an event (talk/discussion) regarding diversity and social responsibility. As a poster above mentioned, yoga journal rarely strays from it’s “skinny, young, white woman covers”. Most of the content of the magazine links to ads for high priced clothing and other products. Lately there’s been a full page ad spread for diet products. Any articles of substance and content are long gone. The magazine should look at it’s role in all of this.

    • Judiesjuice

      I completely agree. How many teachers of color presented at the conference?

  • Brie

    Who is John Galt?

  • Wondering

    Right on mc.

  • Christine Malmborg

    Hello! I am a yoga instructor of 5 years. My view is that if we are to hold a yoga clothing company to certain “yogic community” standards such as inclusivity, then we should also be doing the same towards yoga studios. Take CorePower Yoga for example. They promote ‘fit’ students taking yoga, not ones that are overweight which is most of America. And if you can’t keep-up, you do not belong. Oh, and guess who their primary source for re-selling clothing? lululemon!!!

    • VQ2

      Well, that part is like beating a dead horse already.
      There IS a backlash, but it is with milder styles. Milder styles are inclusive, probably by default. Who goes there anyway? The ones who have decided they have been paying too much $$ to feel crappy instead of relaxed after class. You know, having a pounding chest at bedtime; or even sooner evidence, such as feeling even more anxious right after class than before you got there.

      The heated yogas, whether vinyasa, power or hatha styles have a certain dress code (beach or sauna kind) that seemed to have raised the aesthetic temperature as well.

      While many yogis are athletic, practiced and strong at whatever size; and there should not be discrimination; NOT BEING DOCTORS — though maybe the prodigal progeny or friends of them (friends in high places?), many yoga studio owners and senior teachers don’t know any better …

      Just inflict your presence with them (if you like the class; though some may never get used to you) and call them out on Yelp! (especially if you don’t)

  • Krystle

    Just curious – did attendees have to pay for this event? I know that previous Off the Mat / Into the World events at other conferences have come with a mandatory donation….

  • Kellee

    I can only say that I have never supported Lululemon. Some of my students gave me a gift card to Lululemon so I went to the local store to check them out and I was excited to go..after all, what can you really tell from a website. I had never been there because just from viewing their website I found them to be very over priced, their selections drab and just not “real”. I wandered around the store and felt very awkward. (I am a yoga teacher/sharer, and physically fit etc) The sales people were nice but they had an air about them that was superior and frankly snotty. It felt like any other high end chain. Their product was nothing special and it certainly did not feel like yoga. So, I still have the gift card (i know i must use it) and continue to enjoy the love and yoga spirit in which it was given.

    • VQ2

      Sell the card on eBay …. or an online gift card exchange …
      You know you want to.

  • PROC

    Did Lululemon need to be part of this discussion?
    ~ They need the chance to listen in person to the moral community and individuals expectations. Facing the criticism and challenges in the real world and not just in blogs and side conversations is much more grounded and real.

    Could there have been just as much conversation or maybe even better conversation without them?
    ~ They seem to be a symbolic target for many issues and provided a focus point. I do think their needs to be a wider conversation as there isn’t a yoga pope to hand down judgements and interpretations for the community.

    Should we just forget about trying to rope them into our ideals of conscious consumerism?
    ~absolutely not, but accept that they may never de-list from the stock exchange and become a locally sourced and manufactured marxist co-op that dogmatically follows the 8 limbs and only uses 100% recycled hemp. They can do better. If they are challenged not to be “average” they will likely respond in positive ways.

    Or are they already too intertwined to ignore?
    ~ They are very entwined with the whole yoga-business world. I think it would be silly to ignore them and their shadow.

    Could they become a better force for good?
    ~Yes, they have the resources and ability to work with the community for more good.

  • Any group, corporate or otherwise, does not own Yoga. This 5,000 year old system is a living, breathing entity. Those attempting to enclose, copyright, control or commercialize Yoga is like the tail wagging the dog. It is only the stultified minded fools who allow themselves to participate in this nonsense…

  • J.J

    Look, the only way lululemon is going to ever suddenly become inclusive is the day they start branding and creating their own version of dhotis for India, salwar kameez for Pakistan, mumus for Africa and sarongs for Thailand.
    Other than that, what it sounds like is that lulu is trying to figure out a way to make more money using the diversity angle and issue…but really could care less.

    • Francis

      It seems to come across that lulu is jumping on the “diversity issue” not so much because it’s the right thing to do and a matter of principle but rather as a matter of marketability.

      • VQ2

        It’s more a matter of management than even marketing. Lulu could always find new markets, it had started off making mens’ surf shorts. This is a management issue, both internal and external : (1) Diversity training and reinforcement within the ranks (Remember the Bethesda murder by lulu educator Brittany Norwood?) and (2) The public relations aspects of damage control (its stock tanking, Chip Wilson’s shooting himself in the foot numerous times, scores of Lulu Ambassadors leaving …). PR is also management.

  • If this situation isn’t a setup for a comedy sketch, I don’t know what is!

  • “Should lululemon be held accountable?” That seems like the wrong question. The company IS being held accountable in all kinds of ways — through diminished customer loyalty, shareholder value, negative publicity, management shake-ups, etc. The marketplace is holding the company accountable and in a capitalistic economy, it always will. lululemon is experiencing karma in the truest sense — consequences from action.

    For me, the more interesting and relevant question has become: “What role can the yoga community play in helping companies promulgate (25-dollar word) yogic values, especially those that profit from yoga itself?” I’d love to see a gathering that combines yogis, corporations and other key stakeholders have this very conversation. (Carol Horton’s blog initiates this discussion: http://carolhortonphd.com/yoga-lululemon-common-good/). Rather than continuing to hurl stones at a company that made mistakes, imagine what positive impact the yoga community might have if its discussions and actions centered on ways to promote yogic values in the corporate world. How can we begin to shape companies’ decision-making processes so that it creates positivity in addition to profits (which is not a dirty word)?

  • S.

    Since the conference, LULU stock has dropped about 5%. It appears as though the “talks” didn’t seem to work out in Lululemon’s favor. The more I reflect on what was said in this meeting, it appears as though Potdevin does not know much about yoga aside what the Lululemon marketing team tells him (which is superficial at best). He appears more about expanding his product du jour to a global market without giving much thought to what that product is all about.

  • Tara

    I have mixed feelings over this entire conversation. I have a business background and so I understand that they are a company first and foremost. However I am also a yoga student and yoga teacher and I have also worked for lulu and been an ambassador for them. I am SO grateful for the communities that lulu brings together. They offer run clubs, in store Yoga classes and outdoor yoga classes, all free of charge – and for anyone to attend. They even go so far as to ask the Yoga teachers teaching the classes to make sure that they aren’t teaching any “high risk” poses – they are thinking of inclusiveness and safety for all. This is some of their karma yoga, whether it’s meant to entice more shopping or not, it is a positive thing in the community. Many people are benefiting from free yoga and run sessions – of which I have been a leader and an attendee in both scenarios. In each city I’ve lived where there’s a lulu, I can go in, know that there will be healthy-minded people who work there and who attend their events. So it’s also a great networking community to meet friends, if that’s what you’re into.

    That being said, I certainly do not condone everything that the company has done and I hope that they can become more responsible and ethically minded. If their intention is to support a “yogic” lifestyle, then we have to agree that it goes beyond the asana/pranayam/asteya and it stretches into the rest of the yamas and the niyamas – how can the company incorporate yogic philosophies (if that’s what they want to do) and still earn a profit to be sustainable? However they choose to proceed with their business processes and marketing campaigns, they must realize that being transparent and ethically-minded are a must.

    p.s. I don’t know why everyone is complaining about $90 yoga pants. Clearly, people pay for them and want them and value them. If no one saw value in them, lulu would be out of business in a heart beat. So in my opinion $90 Yoga pants is besides the point (not every yogi needs them and many are happy to practice in regular sweat pants – but if someone wants them, why scrutinize? Live and let live, ya?)

  • Lucy

    Every time I see an article about Lulu’s wicked ways, I feel compelled to defend them. I’m a 6’2″ size 12 yoga teacher who wears their clothes every day of my life, because their pants are long enough. Fun fact: while I’m a size 12 in any other mass produced clothing line, I wear an 8 in Lulu. Every time I see someone accuse them of only marketing to skinny women, I am baffled. Their size 12 pants will easily fit a real-world size 16 woman. They don’t make clothes that are labelled plus size, but neither do any of their competitors, so I can see no reason why the media has singled them out. They make clothes. If you don’t like them, don’t buy their clothes. I don’t understand how they’ve been invested with so much significance in the yoga world.

Leave a Comment