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Lululemon Controversy

    Most people have probably heard of the brand Lululemon, less of us have probably actually bought something from there. I mean, there’s no way I’m buying yoga pants for $90. If you haven’t heard of the brand, then congratulations, you are one of few.

    So this article is just about the many ways in which Lululemon is controversial.

    If you are a fan of their clothing and stores then I encourage you to keep reading. What I’ve written isn’t meant to attack you or make you feel guilty. I very much just want to tell you a little bit about the company.

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    Lululemon is a yoga and athletic clothing store company that started in Canada in 1998. As of their 2015 quarterly progress report, they had 354 stores.

    Their first CEO’s name was Chip Wilson who was highly problematic. When dealing with lots of complaints after a pair Lululemon's yoga pants were recalled for being see-through, Wilson replied to the press with a statement that targeted curvier women as the ones to blame because apparently, the pants “don’t work for some women's bodies.” I know--what an asshole. Wilson did come out with a video, apologizing for what he said but, in my opinion, it did not excuse his actions. After this fiasco, Lululemon’s stock price dropped almost a third.

    At one point, when asked by an interviewer, Chip Wilson also said that he wanted to name the store “Lululemon” because he thought it was “funny to watch Japanese people try and say it.”

    There are a lot of different things that Wilson has said to press while representing Lululemon that are controversial and after years of being the face of the brand, he finally resigned from his role as CEO in 2005.

    Over the years Lululemon has increased their largest pants size from a 12 to a 14, so… a little progress. However, something that still plagues employees to this day is the strangely strict and somewhat cruel work environment. Looking at anonymous reviews of the Lululemon workplace, they really tend to vary. Some reviews say that they loved working at Lululemon and others say things like “ethically questionable” or “cult-like culture.”

    “Work was hardly ever about selling running tights; factor in feedback, integrity checks, and the incessant pressure to look effortlessly cool, and Lululemon labor is much more akin to a game of Survivor.” A quote from a Huffington Post article by Elizabeth Licorish, a former Lululemon employee.

    This article really explains things very well, check it out: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-licorish/lululemon-cult-culture_b_3690378.html

    And I’d say that the hierarchical environment overtaking the actual goal of the business is true for a lot of workplaces, especially in retail. There are so many different ways companies can manipulate their employees whether it be creating a toxic culture that supports ideas of a social hierarchy that does marketing for them, or just making their workers work long and tiring hours.

    Lululemon employees are also strongly encouraged to join an organization called Landmark Forum. On the outside, this seemingly harmless self-help forum looks friendly and inviting. I mean, on the front page of their website there are pictures of people smiling and hugging, they claim to bring their participants power and freedom. However, look a little closer and you’ll find that people searching for enlightenment in this program have only found what seems to only be a big pyramid scheme. They guilt you into enrolling people and bringing in more people and if you can’t complete an assignment, they may mark you as “un-coachable” (probably not something you want to hear when trying to get self-help).

    Obviously, I can’t speak for all Lululemon employees or Landmark participants, but from what I’ve gathered, the company seems to have a specific toxic culture that puts high amounts of stress and anxiety on employees, especially for a retail job.

    And of course, there was the infamous Lululemon murder. I won’t go into any details of the gruesome and truly saddening crime but I will talk about some things that may have very well contributed to the tragedy.

    (CONTENT WARNING: Mention of death and mental health)

    In 2011, a Lululemon employee was killed by her co-worker inside a Lululemon store in Bethesda, Maryland. When caught by the police, the co-worker explained that the victim caught her shoplifting a pair of leggings. It was later discovered that the killer has had issues in the past that affected her mental health, but many people definitely believe that the toxic and hierarchical environment mixed with the strain of the corporate world contributed to what may have pushed her over the edge.

    Lululemon has a lot of controversial stuff happen, and whether or not that affects the way you spend your money is entirely up to you. It’s also not just Lululemon who has faced major controversy with sexist CEOs and such, Lululemon is just one example out of an entire world of clothing/retail stores that keep a steady flow of customers in somewhat unethical ways that people who may not work in the industry, don’t get to see a lot of. Happy shopping!

Bibliography

., Anonymous. “Working at Lululemon.” Glassdoor, www.glassdoor.com/Overview/Working-at-lululemon-EI_IE42589.11,20.htm.

Licorish, Elizabeth. “Lululemon's Cult Culture: Get Fit or Die Trying.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 2 Aug. 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-licorish/lululemon-cult-culture_b_3690378.html.

McClure, Laura. “The Landmark Forum: 42 Hours, $500, 65 Breakdowns.” Mother Jones, 26 June 2017, www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/08/landmark-42-hours-500-65-breakdowns/.

Morse, Dan, and Victor Zapana. “Lululemon Murder Case.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 2 Nov. 2011, www.washingtonpost.com/local/brittany-norwood-convicted-of-killing-lululemon-co-worker-jayna-murray/2011/11/02/gIQAXdFvgM_story.html?utm_term=.449d7f166a56.

Wallace, Amy. “Chip Wilson, Lululemon Guru, Is Moving On.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Feb. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/magazine/lululemons-guru-is-moving-on.html.

Weller, Susan Neuberger. “Lululemon and Calvin Klein Settle Yoga Pants Design Litigation.” The National Law Review, 27 Nov. 2012, www.natlawreview.com/article/lululemon-and-calvin-klein-settle-yoga-pants-design-litigation.
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