Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, recently bashed the company for their inclusive brand image. While Wilson is no longer the brand's chairman, he remains the company's largest individual shareholder.
The Whole Diversity Thing
In an interview with Forbes, Wilson complained about the all-inclusive and body-positive brand image Lululemon curated. He explained that he does not agree with the brand's “whole diversity and inclusion thing.”
He continued his offensive comments, saying, “They're trying to become like the Gap, everything to everybody. And I think the definition of a brand is that you're not everything to everybody.” Wilson believes the brand should be more discerning with its clients, stating, “You've got to be clear that you don't want certain customers coming in.”
He also referred to the models in Lululemon ads, which now span various sizes, ages, races, genders, and styles, as “unhealthy” and “sickly,” saying they're “not inspirational.” Interestingly, the Lululemon plus-size clothing page currently still features primarily thin, conventionally attractive models.
Lululemon Is Not on the Same Page
Wilson stepped down from his chairman position around the end of 2014 after making other controversial and toxic comments. In early 2015, he left the yoga-wear brand entirely. A Lululemon spokesperson released an email statement clarifying that Lululemon does not share Wilson's beliefs.
The statement said, “Chip Wilson does not speak for Lululemon, and his comments do not reflect our company views or beliefs… Chip has not been involved with the company since his resignation from the board in 2015 and we are a very different company today.”
Lululemon made a substantial shift toward diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) values in 2020 when it introduced extended sizing. Now, they offer sizes 0 through 20, catering to more body types.
Wilson's Previous Insults
This incident is not the first time Wilson has made derogatory comments. In 2013, amid a surge of complaints concerning the quality and thickness of the Lululemon yoga pants, Wilson blamed women for the issues.
Wilson told Bloomberg TV in 2013, “They don't work for some women's bodies… it's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it,” implying larger women could simply not wear the brand's pants, despite the recall on the pants before this due to a testing error.
The Right Type of Customer
Wilson makes it clear that he only wants certain customers shopping at Lululemon. However, since releasing extended sizes, the company's share prices have increased by 130%. So, Wilson's exclusionary model is likely not the best way to be successful.
Ironically, yoga is a spiritual and physical practice with inclusion, equality, and diversity at its core. However, it seems the founder of this yoga giant does not abide by the principles of the practice he built his brand around and continues to insult people, mostly women, with bodies that do not fit his idea of healthy.