Listen, I totally understand that finding the perfect pair of leggings is challenging and Lululemon is known for having an amazing fit, good quality, while also including a number of innovative fabrics and design features lending to their all-important prestigious reputation. After all, leggings that cost over $100 dollars must be special and this is made clear by the fact that they cannot be afforded by just anyone. But what most demographically marginalized customers are either passively unaware of, or actively choosing to intentionally disregard, is the company’s infamous historical past of both racist and sexist narratives, feeding into, none other than, a toxic “boys club” culture.
It all started with the founder of the company, Chip Wilson, was asked to step down in 2013 following a number of outrageous public remarks. Wilson even went so far as to make claims that smoking and birth control pills led to high divorce rates. Such statements are in stark contrast to the company’s vision statement which asserts, “we wanted to create a community hub where people could learn and discuss the physical aspects of healthy living, mindfulness and living a life of possibility.” Wilson also stated that he decided to name his company Lululemon, because he believed certain demographics of the Asian population were unable to pronounce the letter “L,” to which he proclaims to have found great humor in. Wilson has also declared personal contentment in using child labor in third world counties, for the purposes of his own company especially, supposedly because he believes it provides them with wages. He also openly discriminated against certain body types by not producing products larger than a standard a size 12. He has even blamed the bodies of particular women for product defaults, saying that some women simply should not wear yoga pants, mind you he is speaking ill of loyal customers who are simply unhappy with the quality of the products they received.
It would be blissfully naive to believe that the company’s problems ended when Wilson left after 15 years, but sadly they did not. In February 2018, Lululemon’s then CEO, Laurent Potdevin, was forced to resign after an illicit relationship with an employee surfaced. This included accusations of reports as to no company accountability and even so far as showing special treatment in the form of favoritism. Many female employees also claim that they have not been given the same advancement or workplace opportunities as their male counterparts. Meanwhile the company, allegedly, is discouraging of an open door environment, instilling very low moral standards of respectability.
As the part of the newest generation of consumers, with ever-increasing purchase power, I can personally attest that where you spend your money reflects not only systems you support, but your personal morale as well. This generation, more than any other has the ability to affect great change. By buying Lululemon you are accepting a narrative in which women are openly subject to body shaming and public ridicule; racist and sexist rants; workplace and advancement disparity; and abuse of power by means of privilege, both in terms of race and maleness, in a CEO position. Demand better company practices; research a few of your favorite brands and individual products before you buy–hold businesses accountable for their actions, know you have the ability to affect great change, and know what kind of narrative you are inspiring with every dollar that you spend.