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March 4, 2024

Lululemon Founder Sparks Backlash Over Comments Criticizing Company’s Diversity Efforts

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Jan 5, 2024

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson has stirred controversy after making critical comments about the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts in a recent interview. Wilson stated that Lululemon was alienating its core customer base by trying to appeal to too many different groups.

Wilson: Lululemon Trying to “Become Like The Gap”

In an interview with Forbes published this week, Wilson slammed Lululemon for shifting its focus from technical athletic clothing to becoming “everything to everybody.”

“It’s kind of an appalling mens line that they came out with recently that I think alienates a lot of their… shall we say, hereditary customer base,” Wilson said. “It’s almost like they are trying to become like the Gap.”

He went on to criticize the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, saying: “The whole diversity and inclusion thing—it’s important, but it’s gone too far.”

Wilson argued that Lululemon needed to be clear about who their target customer was, saying: “You’ve got to be clear that you don’t want certain customers coming in.”

When asked for clarification on what types of customers he didn’t think should be welcomed into Lululemon stores, Wilson declined to elaborate.

Lululemon distanced itself from Wilson’s comments, saying his views were “at odds with Lululemon’s values.” CEO Calvin McDonald emphasized the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in an internal memo to employees.

Backlash Over Perceived Racist, Fatphobic Undertones

Many on social media interpreted Wilson’s statements as racist and fatphobic, suggesting he did not believe plus-sized or non-white customers should be shopping at Lululemon.

“It sounds like he doesn’t want fat people or people of color wearing their clothes,” one Twitter user wrote.

Others called for customers to boycott Lululemon in light of the founders’ comments:

“Lululemon clearly doesn’t want our business so let’s not give it to them!” wrote feminist author Roxane Gay.

Celebrity Tweet
Roxane Gay Lululemon clearly doesn’t want our business so let’s not give it to them!
Jameela Jamil Imagine thinking fat and black people existing and wearing workout gear somehow hurts your bottom line. What a sad little life.

Nonprofit watchdog group Media Matters for America started a campaign calling on Lululemon brand ambassadors and celebrity sponsors to disavow Wilson’s comments.

Wilson Has History of Controversial Remarks

This is not the first time Wilson has stirred up controversy with his comments about Lululemon and its customers.

In a 2013 interview, he said that Lululemon’s signature yoga pants “don’t work for some women’s bodies.” He went on to say that the pants were not intended for plus-sized customers, igniting widespread criticism and calls for boycott.

Wilson was forced to issue a public apology and stepped down as Lululemon’s chief innovation and branding officer later that year. However, he remains a major shareholder with an estimated 14% stake in the company as of 2024.

Year Wilson Comment/Controversy Fallout
2013 Suggested that Lululemon’s yoga pants “don’t work for some women’s bodies” and were not for plus-sized customers Forced to resign as chief branding officer, issued public apology
2024 (this week) Criticized company’s diversity efforts, said Lululemon shouldn’t want “certain customers” coming in Widespread backlash and calls for boycott on social media

What Happens Next?

It remains to be seen what long-term impact Wilson’s latest round of controversial remarks may have on Lululemon’s brand reputation and financial performance.

Some analysts predicted the backlash would blow over quickly, while others said permanent damage may have been done. Crisis PR experts emphasized the need for Lululemon leadership to reinforce their commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“They need to back up statements about values with concrete actions – expand sizing range, feature diverse models in ads, donate to advocacy groups, etc.,” said Susan Collins, founder of The Image Group marketing agency.

Lululemon may also face pressure from sponsors, brand ambassadors, and celebrity partners to take a stand against Wilson’s comments.

Ultimately, the company’s response will be a test of whether it truly stands by the diversity and inclusion policies Wilson was criticizing or bows to the wishes of its controversial founder.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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