February 1, 2012

Lululemon: Are Those Leggings Really Worth Your Soul?

image from Canadian Business

Two things have happened in my life recently. (1) My ass got huge, (2) I've really kicked up my yoga practice. Thus, I need me some new workout clothes, especially since I usually do hot yoga and sweat like an overweight 70 year old man trying to climb the Empire State Building. Lovely image, right? Anyway, I need more spandex.

Typically I shop at Marshall's, and I'll even pick up some workout type stuff at Salvation Army now and then, but every once and a while I like to splurge and get some "real" yoga clothes. And by splurge, I mean buy something off the sale rack from an actual yoga retailer. This does not happen often. My favorite place to shop is by far and away Shakti - I wear their shorts for yoga, spinning and running, and their tops are super cute and hold me in place without looking like I have some kind industrial strength sports bra on. But, they're expensive. Even their sale and clearance stuff is kind of expensive (you're looking at $20-25 per item on clearance, and then there's shipping), so I really only buy when the stars align, which is to say, when I have money and there is a sale, and a coupon. So, not often.

However, lately I've been seeing lots of my blogging and twittering friends talk about their Lululemon gear, it's so cute, it's so awesome, etc etc. Apparently it's the not-so-new hot thing that I never got in on. So I thought I'd check out the website, since I think the nearest Lulu store is something like 3 hours away from me. The clothes are definitely cute, but also mad expensive (A pair of leggings is going to run you $92)- even more so than my beloved Shakti, whose quality I'm very familiar with.

AND THEN I came across this article in the Huffington Post,

Murder At Lululemon: Yoga's "Heart Of Darkness"?

Holy shit, that sounds a little scary! If you're too lazy to read the article, let me summarize it for you - the serene yogini employees at a Lululemon store got into a fight, where one of them stabbed the other "330 times over the course of 20 minutes, severing her spinal cord." Holy fuck crap. These people are insane.

Here are some more facts about this lovely company -
  • [Former CEO Chip] Wilson has mixed a heady self-actualizing cocktail from equal parts Landmark Forum (seminars developed by an ex-Scientologist), the books of motivational business guru Brian Tracy, and Oprah-endorsed best seller The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne. He is now hard at work formalizing them in a Lululemon “internal constitution.” - Yogadork Yes, that's right, Lulumon is using methods developed for recruiting scientologist to market their brand. Creepy.
  • "Former CEO Chip Wilson, an avid snowboarder, 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." - Huffington Post - Yes, because that's not racist.  By the way, the National Post Business Magazine where Wilson was originally quoted to having said this has since been taken down from the Lululemon press website.
  • In 2010 Lululemon had to recall it's "organic" tote bags (that were made in China) for containing lead - Mother Nature Network
  • In 2008 a Canadian teenager found secret messages saying "Some brief or quick-fix incidences when our minds are clear to be creative are....when drunk or stoned...just after an orgasm," underneath the inspirational messages printed on her reusable Lululemon shopping bag  - CTV News
  • In 2007 it became public knowledge that Lululemon's "VitaSea" clothing line, made from seaweed that supposedly “releases marine amino acids, minerals and vitamins into the skin upon contact with moisture”did not, in fact, contain any thing remotely like seaweed. "The New York Times commissioned a laboratory test of a Lululemon shirt made of VitaSea, and reviewed a similar test performed at another lab, and both came to the same conclusion: there was no significant difference in mineral levels between the VitaSea fabric and cotton T-shirts." - New York Times
  • "According to those who attended BALLE BC conference, Wilson told the delegates third world children should be allowed to work in factories because it provides them with much-needed wages. They also say he argued that even in Canada there is a place for 12- and 13-year-old street youths to find work in local factories as an alternative to collecting handouts." - The Tyee - Oh, okay, so obviously we know their stance on child labor.
  •  On the topic of outsourcing to China, Wilson says, "This is how it works. If we made something here for $20, it would probably cost $10 US to make in China, but by the time we've changed the US dollar, paid for shipping duty, and everything else that went with it, it might land at $19. From that point of view, it might not make a difference, so why not make it here, which we did." - The Tyee 
And that is just a small selection of grievances against and critiques of Lulumon. Seriously, of all the niches in the world, how is it that YOGIS are buying into this nonsense? We're all about organic this, holistic that, blah blah blah. How many donation classes for various causes have you been to? Buy purchasing Lululemon and wearing it to a donation class it's pretty much like throwing money out the window - we're donating money to stop child labor at the same time we are supporting a company who openly uses and supports it. What are we thinking? How are these people still in business? I'm not saying that if you get a Lululemon gift you should build a pyre and burn it, but I am suggesting you no longer support this company due to their highly questionable business practices.

Not only are they still in business, but they are steadily growing, with net revenues of $239 million projected for 2011- six times of what they reached in 2004 (Huffington Post. Oh, and that Chip Wilson guy made something in the range of like $300 million on his stock options, so he's not hurting either.

So, seriously, Please, Step Away From the Lululemon!

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