Lululemon founder’s harsh words on diversity and inclusion spark outrage

Chip Wilson, the founder of athletic apparel company Lululemon, has revealed in a recent interview that he has a distaste for the “whole diversity and inclusion thing” being included in his company’s advertising. He claimed that it makes the people in the ads look “unhealthy,” “sickly” and “not inspirational,” and that it attracts “certain customers” to the company, which sparked outrage online.

“They’re trying to become like the Gap, everything to everybody,” Wilson said in the interview with Forbes. “And I think the definition of a brand is that you’re not everything to everybody… You’ve got to be clear that you don’t want certain customers coming in.”

His comments soon circulated on social media, with a plethora of users on X claiming that they will never buy apparel from the company after he revealed his opinion.

Call me proud to NEVER have wasted a dime on @lululemon. Repulsive attitudes and culture exhibited by their founder. Doesn’t matter how involved he’s been of late. The corporate water is still toxic.

— Monika Melsha (@mrobin032009) January 4, 2024

Not everyone is a size 2. I found a couple of cute things there, but no thanks. I’ll find a company that doesn’t fat shame. @lululemon

— Becca (@beccaj00729) January 4, 2024

I’m proud not to have EVER bought anything Lululemon and will continue never to do so.

— Erika aka Evil E (@iam_erika) January 4, 2024

Wilson founded Lululemon in 1998 and stepped down from the company’s board of directors in 2013 after making controversial comments during an interview with Bloomberg, saying that his company’s yoga pants aren’t for all women’s body types.

“Frankly some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for [the pants],” he said in the interview. “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”

Wilson also revealed in a 2004 interview with Canada’s National Post Business Magazine that he came up with the name Lululemon because it has three “L” letters in it, and found it “funny” watching Japanese people pronounce the name.

“L is not in their vocabulary. It’s a tough pronunciation for them. So I thought, next time I have a company, I’ll make a name with three Ls and see if I can get three times the money,” Wilson told National Post Business Magazine. “It’s kind of exotic for them. I was playing with Ls and I came up with Lululemon. It’s funny to watch them try to say it.”

Related: Lululemon accused of an ugly problem that’s slowly coming to light

In 2020, after Black Lives Matter protests made waves across the nation which brought to light several inequities Black people face across different communities, Lululemon announced in June of that year that it was committing to “inclusion, diversity, equity, and action.” One of its promises in its new mission was that it will use its brand to “advocate for change.”

Later that year, the company followed up on this commitment by claiming that it equipped its stores with signage that stands against discrimination.

“As a part of our promise to leverage our platform to communicate with our community, amplify diverse voices and galvanize our community to act — we outfitted our stores with signage that states our stance against racism, discrimination, harassment, and hate and created house rules for our social media channels that echo our no-tolerance policy of these behaviors,” said Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald in an update on the comapny’s website.

The company also extended its clothing size range in 2020 by introducing sizes 0-20.

In 2021, Lululemon also announced its Global Run campaign, to show that runners can come in many shapes and sizes, and even recruited anti-racism activist Mirna Valerio as an ambassador for the company.

Despite Lululemon’s many efforts to expand diversity and inclusion within its branding, a recent report from the Business of Fashion shows that the company may still have more work to do, particularly in its own company culture. 

The report revealed that 14 current and former Lululemon employees allegedly found the culture at the company “unwelcoming of Black people.”

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