Lululemon has received its share of media spotlight for stupid controversies. In the past year, it has knowingly sold see-through yoga pants, quoted Ayn Rand, lied about the contents of their fabric and endorsed child labour.
But it looks like founder Chip Wilson has gone one step too far with his recent comment about women’s bodies during an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart” with Trish Regan.
When asked about recent quality complaints with Lululemon’s yoga pants, Wilson responded: “There’s always been pilling. The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don’t work [with the pants], or they’ll wear a purse that doesn’t work, or quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it.”
So the problem isn’t Lululemon’s shoddy synthetic material pants made in factories in Asia. The reason why Lululemon’s pants keep being see-through and pilling is because some women’s bodies are wrong and their thighs touch. He goes on to say: “…Even our small sizes will fit an extra large. It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there, over a period of time, and how much use–”
Watch Wilson in action in this video clip:
The comments have made headlines all over the Internet, and pissed off more than a few people. They’ve even inspired a boycott (which was actually called for on November 4, the day before the interview aired). But, unfortunately, this kind of attitude towards women is to be expected from Wilson, who is maybe a little bit of an unintentional misogynist. As Salon.com notes, “Chip Wilson also thinks that breast cancer is caused by ‘the number of cigarette-smoking Power Women who were on the pill’” [note: page has been removed since posting] – this is something he actually wrote on the Lululemon blog. Readers (and likely Lululemon consumers) called out his sexism in the comments section, but it didn’t seem to stick.
Disparate sites like The Huffington Post, Businessweek, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, xoJane and ThinkProgress have posted about this latest PR disaster. Nobody is impressed or amused.
Interestingly, this media brouhaha happens shortly after the launch of their new Full-On Luon yoga pants. An obvious response to the sheer pantscapade from last spring, although the product video claims they’ve been two and a half years in production.
The new pants have already come under scrutiny for their poor quality. The Daily Mail reports:
While the video claims that these new pants are made from a more supportive and opaque fabric, many of the reviews on the Lululemon website would suggest otherwise. One dissatisfied customer wrote: ‘They pill and the thread in the seams loosens. I want to love these pants so bad. . . but honestly, my $15 Walmart pants are WAY better quality.’ Another complained that the pants are just as see-through as their predecessors. ‘After wearing four times I’m already experiencing pilling and sheerness,’ she wrote.
Although the new pants have only been around for a short time, they’ve already provided an opportunity for Lululemon to display its bad taste. A store window in Edmonton proclaimed, “Our full-on luon won’t quit! just like Rob Ford. #fullon” – a little reference to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, whose drug and alcohol problems have come to light in a highly publicized media drama.