how lululemon shuns plus-sized yogis

how lululemon shuns plus-sized yogis

It’s no secret that Lululemon employs a whole lot of creepy and manipulative tactics to entice people into buying their products. They’re known for instilling a scarcity mentality in shoppers and creating controversy at any opportunity. Now Huffington Post reveals that excluding plus-sized folks is “key to Lululemon’s strategy.”

In an investigative piece posted on July 31, HuffPo shows how:

the exiling of larger clothing by Lululemon is a central piece of the company’s strategy to market its brand as the look of choice for the stylishly fitness-conscious, according to former employees and consumer advocates. They say this treatment of larger clothes and customers reflects the culture that Lululemon represents — one that falsely suggests skinniness is the paramount feature of health… The company has shown reluctance to offer women’s clothes larger than size 12, choosing instead to ignore the $14 billion plus-size apparel industry and protect its brand.

Not surprisingly, Lululemon declined to comment. Also not surprising is that Lululemon is only one of many high-profile apparel brands that chooses not to offer plus-size options.

Lululemon has become a target of consumer advocates, including a petition on Change.org to pressure Lululemon to offer plus-size options. As the petition founder Cordelia Storm notes, “They’re basically saying, ‘To be healthy, to do yoga, to be a part of this manifesto, you have to look like this.'”

Huffington Post also observed the company’s mixed messages about its acceptance of all body types, particularly in a 2010 post entitled “Love Your Body” on the Lululemon blog. While the title of the post paid lip service to body acceptance, the accompanying images were of slender white women in bright Luon.

The post received many comments pointing out the contradiction. But in general, there haven’t been any boycotts or other calls for action to challenge Lululemon’s (and other major apparel brands). Such actions have minimal consequences for the company, since they’re simply excluding people who don’t shop there anyway – not its core, devoted, body-conscious and under-size-12 clientele. It’s not news that plus-sized bodies are contrary to Lululemon’s brand, lifestyle and company culture.

Within the North American yoga community, there are challenges to making the practice available and accessible to all bodies. Something as simple as not having comfortable, flattering, confidence-boosting clothes to wear to class can actually be a barrier to practice. It’s disappointing that Lululemon doesn’t see plus-sized people as capable of living healthy and active lives.

So what’s a round bodied yoga-loving person to do? Anna Guest-Jelley at Curvy Yoga has a list of brands with activewear available in plus sizes (scroll down to the bottom). Unfortunately, many of these companies don’t use ethical or sustainable business practices – but organic plus-sized yoga wear is next on the list of things to conquer.

Photo credit: Frances Werle-Smith, via Curvy Yogis, Represent! gallery on curvyyoga.com

19 Comments

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  1. They also price their clothing out of most people’s price range… are they also saying that only the well off should be able to do yoga? I don’t agree with either of these mentalities but just a thought…

  2. For the record they aren’t any better at either end of the size ranges for men either. Very narrow view of the human body in general.

  3. I hope this doesn’t seem callous, but personally I am happy that Lululemon is staying true to their consistent record of reactionary company policies by *not* reaching out to include plus-sized women. Rather than protesting that they should make *everyone* feel part of their manipulative branded image, it would be nice to see more and more people becoming alienated, disillusioned, and motivated to move on to something better. Not only are there much better companies to support; but, there are much bigger issues to worry about than what brand of yoga clothing to wear. Honestly, sweat pants and a t-shirt will work fine . . . the whole mentality of needing super-cute outfits in order to feel good about your yoga practice is fundamentally messed up and needs to be challenged.

    • Thank you, Carol. While I find lululemon’s manipulative marketing and exclusionary tactics to be unsettling—even disturbing—I heartily agree that NOBODY needs overpriced, synthetic, sweatshop-manufactured (but so cute!) clothing to practice or teach yoga. Caring about fashion hearkens back to high school, not any yoga class I’d be interested in.

      • Spot on comment Carol! I completely agree because we are getting caught up in our appearance / brands to wear instead actually taking the action to do the yoga practice.

    • Like Charlotte, I so agree with your comments Carol.
      I teach yoga.
      My latest clothing find to teach yoga in is a second hand pair of Banana Republic capri pants which are very stretchy and cost me $10 from a thrift store. They have no label on them.
      As a teacher I eschew labels – I am so tired of students voicing comments which indicate how inadequate they feel to do yoga due to Lululemon’s branding of it as some kind of fitness activity for young thin Barbie Doll pretzel types.

    • Here here!!!

  4. I definitely think its legitimate to critique the structures around yoga that are limiting and//or discourage body types//abilities//gender etc., to practicing yoga. and, i also think huff po should learn to fact check; i too, also worked at lululemon, and while yes, they do only offer up to size twelve, this chick was deffo skewing the truth in this article. size twelves are with everything else, not relegated to a dusty back corner. its IS true that not a whole lot of people buy size 10s and 12s, and so there’s actually usually way *more* of those sizes in various styles.

    the writer is a creative, freelance writer: its her job to make something seem “sensational”. the article is grossly exaggerated, and im kinda disappointed that “its all yoga baby” would republish it without actually looking at the source or verifying that its actually true. its also not really news that an athletic company would only offer a limited size range. its their job to make money and appeal to a niche market. maybe you should have reposted an article critiquing capitalism instead.

    • I have to say as a size 12 who used to attempt to buy clothing at Lulu, I often had a difficult time finding my size. Also some clothing clearly does not come above size 8 or 10. However I have to say I don’t fault Lulu for not having larger sizes; most retailers don’t. However, they shouldn’t try to pretend they are some kind of bond image champions – it’s nauseating!I almost think I prefer honesty of Abercrombie and Fitch whose words a least match their actions.

  5. I just want to shout out Diane Kennedy, who makes beautiful bamboo plus size eco clothing that is 100% made in Canada. I have worn her clothes for yoga since 2010. Although they are not branded as yoga clothing, they absolutely should be! And the bamboo is the best if you are doing flow or hot yoga, it keeps you very comfortable!

  6. What’s even better is that their sizes run small. So while their largest is a 12, it’s probably closer to a 10.

  7. I have little love for the Big L. I fit in their clothes on their high-end spectrum but when I went in there for my pro-deal discount since i am a certified teacher I got major elevator looks, was asked for certs/website (which is fine), and then heavily questioned if I was really a yoga teacher. This was at the Boulder, CO store. I walked out because they were so rude about it. I decided they did not need my business.

  8. I wouldn’t be interested in buying anything that costs more than a class than I take to wear on my body. I buy all my yoga pants in discount stores. Whatever you wear doesn’t matter. As long as you can’t see through them and they don’t fall off I am very happy. :O) I teach yoga to teenagers and what they care about is just being comfortable in their surroundings, not their clothes. Stores/brands that are exclusive have never interested me and I don’t plan on entering one. ever.

  9. You know what would be a productive, positive post: share with us some more of your favourite shops/brands/options for yoga clothes that you feel are good quality, ethically produced and comfortable to wear to practice yoga (if its inexpensive, great) for your body type. If there is a shortage, why don’t we present it as an opportunity for some creative, artistic and business minded yogi. The rest of this discussion is just a waste of time, either rehashing old news or preaching to the choir. I’d like to read about something other than whining about this corporation and how it takes advantage of us poor stupid consumers before I unsubscribe from this blog. I really don’t get the anger surrounding yoga pants but its seems like there has to be something at the very least more interesting to discuss from week to week.

  10. I bought a top from Lululemon as a treat to myself after completing my yoga training. It was a great insight into this company and their policies, it was and is the worst piece of yoga clothing I have ever purchased. It is so bad that I cannot even sell it on EBay in good conscience. It sits balled up in the back of my drawer as a reminder of how to waste $70.00 in five minutes.
    It is easy enough to find this brand at consignment stores for around $18 since you can’t return anything once it’s on sale or been worn.
    Most of my clothing purchased now is gently used or if I want to splurge I go to Athleta (which does carry larger sizes) and can be returned for any reason.,.even after you’ve worn it.
    Lesson learned.

  11. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I have come to the conclusion that while the allegations about the behavior in the store are disturbing (and, if true, then shame on them), I don’t think it’s fair to single Lululemon out as “fat shaming” simply based on their size range. Most yoga clothing companies don’t offer above a size “L” or “XL” – see Prana, Be Present, Lucy, Hyde etc – and most of those sizes run small (which is not true of Lululemon given that my IRL size 18 butt fits in many of the size 12 pants). Shouldn’t we be calling out all yoga clothing companies?

    Fair trade and organic companies also tend to have a limited (small) size range, including, for example, Synergy. It’s easy (and fun!) to rag on Lululemon because their marketing tactics are so gross, but isn’t there a bigger issue here? Shouldn’t we be encouraging all clothing companies to offer sizes to fit more yogis?

  12. With so many other choices for yoga clothing available out there, it’s a pity that we all spend so much time worrying about Lulu. There are plenty of good organic yoga pants out there if you look around, and for cheaper than Lululemon I might add.

  13. I bought yoga pants from Land’s End – a bargain if you are looking for low cost and a good size range. For tops I either wear a plain t-shirt or a couple of sleeveless tops for runners from REI. Nothing fancy, just comfort and good coverage.

  14. The Quiet Indian: American Yoga, India, and the New Orientalism

    http://www.independent.com/news/2013/dec/25/quiet-indian/#commenttoggle