lululemon execs, bloggers & activists face off at YJ conference

lululemon execs, bloggers & activists face off at YJ conference

This weekend, a small group of lululemon executives, writers and activists will gather for a public conversation on spiritual values and corporate responsibility at the Yoga Journal NYC conference. The Saturday, April 26 public conversation is free and capped at 100, and pre-event registration indicates that the event is sold out.

Admittedly, “face off” is a bit misleading (couldn’t resist the linkbait; also, I’ve been watching too much hockey lately). With skillful facilitation by Seane Corn and Hala Khouri, the “Circle of Dialogue” will likely be respectful and honest. But this is the first time that lululemon CEO, Laurent Potdevin, will come face-to-face with longstanding lululemon critic and author Carol Horton, former ambassador Alanna Kaivalya, and NYC-based activist Leslie Booker of the Lineage Project.

While the conversation is public, there is also an air of secrecy around it, with very little information available online. Kerry Maiorca at elephant journal asked the question that we’ve all been thinking: “Will lululemon use this critical feedback to consider the impact of their business and marketing decisions, or is this just another marketing stunt and PR grab?” Maiorca went on to make four sound suggestions that lululemon could take if they wish to stay relevant and walk their talk.

Panelist Alanna Kaivalya, however, made a little noise with a recent Huffington Post article, only to be chastised by Yoga Journal’s Communications Director. “Yoga has it’s OWN value system, thankyouverymuch,” Kaivalya declared, in an effort to draw out stories from disillusioned lululemon consumers. “And, it is these values of doing no harm, speaking as truthfully as possible and not taking what we don’t need that make yoga folk such nice folk. It’s time us nice folk put our foot down and say, ‘No more, Lulu.’ And, this is exactly what I’m prepared to say to Mr. Potdevin (who’s name in French means “bribe”) when I meet him at the panel.”

In response, Dayna Macy from YJ commented, “…you sound like you have have made up your mind before the event has even taken place. Lululemon has made serious missteps in the past but it is for that very reason they are opening up a forum to the public. As someone who works at Yoga Journal, I respect that they are open to all questions, and that makes me interested in hearing what they actually have to say.”

We’re all interested in hearing what lululemon has to say. And more importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that this company reflects the values of the community  it has somehow ended up representing.

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  1. Carol and Alanna and OTM will bring it. If they had a whole day for it, this is the paper I’d love to see workshopped: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cars.12034/abstract.

    Abstract:

    “This paper examines the enormous success of lululemon athletica and
    specifically how its branding practices appropriate yogic practice into a
    consumerist model of discipline and self-care. lululemon branding is
    linked with neoliberal hyperindividualism and broader self-help
    discourses that define health and wellness as a personal and moral
    achievement. We explore how lululemon branding consistently refers to
    vague, homogenizing, and orientalist concepts of Eastern spiritualities
    that instrumentalize yogic practices, and reinforce Western ideologies of
    healthism along with personal, bodily, and market performance. We
    argue that lululemon folds empowerment into consumerism: discourses
    of choice and self-care reinforce the responsibilized self that is the core of
    contemporary neoliberal societies.”

  2. a “public” conversation on spiritual values and corporate responsibility doesn’t really get to the facts of what has occurred with Lulu, Chip Wilson, or their formation through the Landmark forum. It doesn’t really cover the (once mandatory) corporate retreats, or the lawsuits over paying employees with clothing vouchers.

    But what did happen – what consciously occurred is a re-introduction to corporate yoga in a yoga polite conference setting.

    There are no spiritual values in corporations, just people. And if the clever marketing and the bottom line is what defines your focus, then Lulu is you your only choice for yoga products.

    That being said, I would much rather own a one of a kind from someone I knew who made it.

    I don’t know anyone (and I mean anyone) who wears lululemon. I think I will keep it that way.

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