Hot off the Buffalo bungle and Dalai Lama fiasco, Lululemon is now making waves in Baltimore. As the City Paper reports, some people in B-more are not happy with the new collaboration between one Lulu location and local artist Michael Owen, though they claim it is a “match made in heaven” because both “deserve each other.”
The issue here is that Owen, best known for his murals of shadow hands spelling “love,” has been criticized for appropriating artwork from local graffiti writers and having no problem using it as his own without crediting them. As Owen put it, “authenticity doesn’t pay for my child support or my groceries. Street cred is not a priority for me… Baltimore is, you know, small, and I think that that conversation right there of losing credibility by being paid for your work or by appropriating imagery is just kind of tired.” Hm.
Owen has teamed up with Lululemon to sell 52 garments at the Harbor East location as part of a limited-edition collection called “The Baltimore Love Project Capsule Collection.” The artist already has his sharp critics (see above about appropriation) which makes perfect sense why he’d be a targeted collaborative partner for Lululemon, a company with a dubious marketing history and lack of handle on anything relating to authenticity.
The CP’s Anna Walsh lays it down:
But if any company deserves this hackneyed work, it’s Lululemon, of the sheer pants and “some women’s bodies just don’t actually work [for our yoga pants]” infamy, with its cultish work environment and its insanely overpriced clothes (an “inspiration tank” will set you back $58). It, like Owen’s Love Project, is about profiting from a feel-good hippie ethos without worrying about minor details such as the livelihood of the people from whose work they’re profiting.
As the launch party event page noted, a portion of the sales “will benefit The Baltimore Love Project, Owen’s self-initiated project of 20 love-themed murals connecting people and communities across Baltimore City.” So at least there’s some good coming out of it?
Skinny. White. “Alternative”. If you fit the demographic, the Lulu gods will smile favorable upon you. To hell with the rest. It makes perfects sense for Lulu to find a guy who rips off other people’s ideas for profit. That is what Lulu has been doing all along with Yoga.
I wouldn’t go that far. But true to Lulu’s m.o., they are riding a wave of both trendiness and publicity. There will be a backlash against this artist (how many Banksy’s and Keith Harings are there?) and his works will be thrown out with the see-through pants …