I’ve always been neither hot nor cold regarding lululemon, the yoga-inspired clothing company. Instead, it seemed like they might be doing some good with their community-building. Their clothes were interesting, but incredibly expensive. Just over a year ago, I met one of their local ambassadors, Joe LoPresto, founder of ExperienceTriathlon. My views have drastically shifted now, after Patrick shared a Huffington Post article detailing what a sordid mess the company actually is.
From the Huffington Post: A recent guilty verdict in the trial of 28-year-old Brittany Norwood — accused of first-degree murder in the grisly slaying of her 30-year old co-worker Jayna Murray – in the lululemon outlet on the outskirts of Washington, DC.
The severity of the attack is almost unbelievable.
[L]ululemon is no typical workplace, in fact. Its highly competitive (considered cultish by some) corporate culture has raised serious ethical concerns for years, and so have the company’s exploitative marketing and advertising policies. (Again from Huffington Post)
Turns out the problems began with its founding in Vancouver in 1998. Former CEO Chip Wilson, said he came up with “lululemon” because he delighted in the idea that trying to pronounce the name — with its three syllables beginning with “l'” — would pose a special challenge for the Japanese, whom he enjoyed making fun of. From that less-than-enlightened starting point Wilson went on to create a huge controversy in 2005 when he announced that the firm would rely on child labor and “sweat shops” in China, after three competitors in his native Vancouver went belly up due to rising labor costs. (Huffington Post)
Then, in 2006, the firm rolled out a line of “Vita-Sea” apparel bags that it claimed were made with seaweed fiber, and had health and medicinal effects for consumers, including stress reduction, through the release of amino acids and vitamins into the skin’s natural moisture. But they were lying — there was no seaweed of any kind in the bags the newspaper tested. (Huffington Post)
It goes on… If any one of these is true it amazes me that they are still in business. Great job on their public relations, I guess.
How has lululemon survived these scandals? In a word, record profits.
For me, this is not a company I can support. I hope that you do your own research and make an informed decision on whether you want to or not.
(*Post-script: After this was originally posted, I was challenged by Coach J-R (Jean-Remi John CAMPION), who commented: “A very anecdotal point of view, no fact at all to back this up. And very badly written… Sounds like a one sided story… and as far as the poor person that was murdered, does this only happen in lululemon or are no other people unfortunately murdered in work places or as a result of work disputes… Does someone actually have Chip on record saying this about kids/sweat shops etc or not? Here is the meaning of anecdotal in case you are wondering: anecdotal |ˌanikˈdōtl| adjective (of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research : while there was much anecdotal evidence there was little hard fact | these claims were purely anecdotal. Take or leave lululemon. Sales are on right now up to 70% in some stores here in Sydney! Chimaste, J-R Campion Run Ambassador lululemon athletica Mid City Sydney Australia.”
I’m glad he did that, because I truthfully had taken some of this without digging into it as deeply as I should have. Here is my response to Coach J-R: “Coach, thanks for the definition. A murder and subsequent conviction are not anecdotal. Lab tests showing a company lied about its product is not anecdotal. Chip Wilson talked about using sweatshops at the 2005 Business Alliance of Local Living Economies Conference in Vancouver. Chip Wilson’s quote about the Japanese’s difficulty in pronouncing the name of the company is from an article in the National Post Business Magazine. You’re right that bad things happen to all sorts of companies. However, none of these situations is something you’d expect from a company that: ‘creates components for people to live longer, healthier and more fun lives.’ (from the lululemon manifesto).”
As a lululemon ambassador, his first instinct was to defend the company, which is as it should be. I hope, after reading my rebuttal, that he ponders whether or not he wants to stay affiliated with them.)