When it comes to the ridiculously named Lululemon, I have a clear conscience. The first time I walked into a store, a slightly smug salesperson asked me if she could be of some assistance. I said I was looking for a good pair of yoga pants that could take a beating. When I saw the price tag on the pair of pants that could theoretically take a beating, I thanked her kindly, walked out, and headed to Old Navy. For that much money, they should do the Ashtanga for me.
Since then, Steve’s given me a couple pairs, and I like ’em, but I’m not nuts about ’em. After the series of awkward and downright offensive blunders by the now former CEO, Chip Wilson, I think I can safely say that I won’t be getting any more of them–the Ayn Rand connection alone would scare him out of the store. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, reporter Amy Wallace has published a piece in New York Times Magazine about the whole sordid mess, along with a little delving into the Mind of Chip. This quote from the interview will make you feel good about moving those Lululemon pants into the back of the rotation:
“I think that Lululemon was so successful because I was probably the only straight guy that was making women’s apparel, and I knew what a guy liked,” Wilson told me. “Girls ended up wearing it, and guys commented on it.”
I don’t even know what that means (“guys commented on it”? on what, exactly? and what form did that take? hoots and wolf whistles?), but I can identify a hyper-abundance of arrogance when I hear it. Wilson’s piece is a pretty fascinating read, summarizing the growth and rise of Lululemon, and setting the stage for the spin-off company Wilson’s wife, Shannon and son J.J. have started, Kit and Ace (the description of the target consumer will make you visibly cringe). Wilson peppers her interview with some pithy analysis, like this bit:
More than once, the way Wilson spoke reminded me of the airhead fashion model Ben Stiller plays in “Zoolander.” But for all his off-putting and impolitic utterances (in a blog post about Lululemon’s origins, he infamously linked the use of birth control to rising divorce rates, and claimed this led to his future market), he has a kind of genius for forecasting trends and assessing the human impulses — vanity, insecurity, the yearning for perfection — that make people pay more for something they could buy much cheaper elsewhere.
Clearly Mr. Wilson is getting ready to reboot, but has not yet figured out he’s best in the background.
You can also check out the Amy Wallace interview with Madeline Brand on our local superstation, KCRW–on Brand’s show, Press Play.
Posted by Bobbie