Lululemon Controversy: The Controversial Creator of Lululemon Claims, “the Company Is Worse Off without Me.”
Chip Wilson, then 42 years old, noticed that his fellow yogis looked awkward while sweating in loose clothing during his first yoga class in 1998.
“At that time, everyone wore their ugliest apparel to the gym,” the controversial founder of Lululemon (LULU) told CNN Business’ Vanessa Yurkevich.
Wilson established the surf, skate, and snowboard clothing brand Westbeach after spending his formative years in Canada. He was already skilled in the art of functional garment design and viewed yoga as a promising new market.
He explained that perspiring is an integral part of the yoga experience. “The binding effect of wet cotton became apparent. Furthermore, the trainer was not able to properly align the body.
Wilson toyed with the concept and began to consider potential brand names.
He recalled a moment when he was doing business in Japan and broke the news to his customers that he would be shutting down Westbeach, his skateboarding branch. The Japanese, to his astonishment, paid a “ridiculous fee” for the right to use the moniker “Homeless.”
Even though the letter “L” doesn’t appear in the Japanese alphabet, I was able to deduce that names including the letter were popular among Japanese consumers. He remarked that the accent was decidedly American. So I thought, ‘If I ever start another business, it will have three L’s.’ Lululemon was established.
Chip Wilson consulted with focus groups to refine the design of his new yoga pants. Unlike competing brands, these trousers relied heavily on Lycra, a stretchy fabric, for their design.
Since “no one had previously come up with a synthetic cloth that felt like cotton,” he reasoned that the product must be good.
Wilson took the bold step of selling the pants for $100 through retail outlets. He oversold the trousers to college-educated, busy women in their thirties, not knowing how well they would be received.
Wilson said of his target demographic, “Time is so crucial to them that they don’t have time to buy anything and then return it.” They can’t afford to buy something, use it for three months, and then go out and buy another one.
Wilson argued that the only way Lululemon could succeed was to focus on a specific subset of the market. His intended audience was comprised of “super females.” He wasn’t worried about turning off other women and losing their business as a result.
Once you start catering to the masses, you end up catering to no one, which is bad for branding.
Truth be told, Wilson was focusing on females aged 32 and up.
He explained that they zeroed in on a certain type of 32-year-old working lady who fit this profile: a condo owner, frequent traveller, fashionista, and athlete. Neither the 33-year-old nor the 31-year-old were appealing to us. For just one individual only, we constructed this.
According to Wilson, issues arose as Lululemon grew in size after he took the company public in 2005.
After the company went public, he stated, “what I actually lost was control of the company on a governance level.” According to Wilson, the company’s bureaucracy prevented him from expanding into other regions and making the brand “synonymous with mindfulness.”
Wilson argued that such a frame of mind is incompatible with imaginative endeavours such as describing a world that has not yet come into existence.
Along the way, he turned into a scapegoat for people’s complaints. He and his staff once pretended to be infants operating sewing machines in an effort to dispel the myth that Lululemon used child labour.
Just an insurance policy in the name of marketing, as Wilson put it. It would be impossible to accuse us of child labour because we participated in it.
Wilson’s subsequent gaffe put an end to any chance of recovery. When Bloomberg asked him about the 2013 recall of some of the company’s signature black pants, he said, “Some women’s bodies don’t work for the pants.”
“It’s basically about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure there is over a period of time,” he continued.
Anger was expressed in the remarks. Wilson even tried to apologise via a video, but it was also unsuccessful. Soon after, he stepped down from his position as head of the board.
Wilson acknowledged that the remarks have followed him around, but insisted he had no regrets about making them.
I don’t think it was me if I answered otherwise,” he remarked.
Wilson left the board in 2015, but he maintains that the company would be in better shape now if he were still there. He is still the company’s fourth-largest shareholder.
I envision the business as one with strong roots in yoga and mindfulness practices. He stated, “I imagine it would be much more international than it is now.” “The value of the company may have increased by 30–40% at the time.”
When asked for a response to Wilson’s criticism, Lululemon said it would not be making any. Lululemon has been successful this year and now has more than 140 outlets in countries other than the United States. In 2018, the stock price of the corporation doubled.
Wilson hasn’t stopped keeping tabs on the retail industry. By the end of the year, he hopes to have joined the board of an athletic gear company.
According to him, the “athletic wear market is now the de facto way people dress” and will continue to grow.
He speculated, “I suppose the fashion guys lost the market.” What we aren’t doing is dressing in oversized garments. No need for a tie and a three-piece suit for us. We’re dressing a little bit more conservatively.
While Wilson is no longer in charge of his own company, he is still determined to make his mark. When he’s in a new town, he always looks for a Lululemon and sneakily rearranges the shelves. “Such as a lifelike store display. The mannequin should be tilted 45 degrees so that the front and back can be viewed, as this is something he has always wanted. “I enjoy retail setup so much that I have a thousand different strategies for doing it.”