Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lulu Lemmings

I am going for honesty here. I figure since I pontificate on the dangers of carbon emissions, chemicals and bottled water I should 'fess up to my short falls. I hope you all still like me...

Just as a preface before I start: I've been thinking a lot about the "branding" of yoga and how corporations are jumping onto the increasingly popular and lucrative yoga train. My yoga doesn't really have room for sexist advertisements or corporate manipulations. That being said, I don't like practicing yoga in regular clothing... and I am an admitted consumer (recovering!). If push came to shove I'd declare myself "Anti-Lululemon" as it would fit better with my distrust for all things ginormous and corporate-y (see SIGG). This post is meant to begin the upfront and honest discussion I need to have.

Lululemon. I have a ridiculous love-hate relationship with you. You are my kryptonite and SO clever in your marketing genius. Perhaps a little bit of background on my lulu relationship (most likely similar to all of yours):

I was introduced to Lulu while living in Montreal, umm, five years ago-ish. My friend S., from B.C., introduced us during the pivotal "we should do yoga" part of grad-school. At that time Lulu was definitely moving towards being annoying in B.C., but JUST becoming popular in Montreal. Such a pretty store, with nice sayings on their bags and they even carried "organic" materials! S. assured me that although I was paying a ZILLION dollars for the top and pants that I'd never have to buy yoga clothing again. Sigh. How I wish that were true.

Fast forward two years when Andrew and I moved to BC. At that point, if you wore Lulu you were bordering on being a branded fluff lemming. One of the gaggle of women who wore it for the symbol and not a "true" yogi. I gained ten pounds and no longer fit in my standby top. Yay, more shopping! I discovered "Oqoqo", Lulu's "organic" and sustainable line and salivated over their flagship store in Vancouver.

Introducing "eco" life change and little things started to become apparent. I started noticing that their "Proud to be Canadian" clothing was deteriorating in quality. Their pants were no longer thick and well-made and their "eco" TPE mats shed within days of use. The culmination of our first "break up" was noticing the "Consciously formulated in Vancouver, Made in China" B.S. on their tags. Seriously, what?? Every single time I read that tag I am insulted. As if I'm stupid enough to believe that stating it was designed in Canada but made in China really makes any difference. Finally, the majority of Lulu's shares were sold to an American company and they are no longer Canadian at all.

Now that we live in Halifax, my relationship with Lulu has changed once again. The store drives me crazy. People drive from all over the province (and sometimes from New Brunswick) just to go to that one store. The result; it's filled to the brim with pushy Lemmings 100% of the time.

At the Halifax store they also have some fantastic poster info on their "workshop factories" (ahem) in China. Some day I will brave the masses to subtly take a picture of this "info-board". I'll get Andrew to pose with a bandana or something ridiculous and pretend to take a picture of him. On this board the company goes on about how wonderful the working conditions are at their factories, complete with cutesy pictures of the female Chinese workers at their sewing stations wearing matching pink hair bands. I didn't see a lot of smiles. It was creepy. Consciously formulated in Vancouver my a**.

However. Sigh. Lulu has a FANTASTIC community presence here in the city. Three and sometimes four free classes per week! Much more than the local studios. They also almost completely run the show for yoga wear in the city. Thank goodness I discovered Bhavana Boutique and was able to try on different companies such as Karma, Tonic (which are both actually formulate and MADE in Canada) and Cura clothing. Unfortunately I have yet to find a top by another company that fits as well as my Lulu tops. I think this is due to my body type and that I hate shopping online.

This is my downfall, I hate shopping online. Especially for clothing. If I'm going to spend that much money I want it to fit. This leads me to my jacket purchase which shattered my "I'm never shopping at Lulu again" resolve a few weeks ago. Thank goodness I have valiantly been avoiding all "yoga-apparel" based stores in the past few months. We don't "need" special yoga gear to practice. Though I'll be the first to admit that practicing yoga in jeans just isn't the same.

No matter the marketing suave of Lulu, my jacket purchase is the epitome of my love-hate relationship and represents perfectly how they manipulate (me) the consumer. Especially us "green-yogis". Story to follow shortly. :)

How do you feel about Lulu?


Article copyrighted by EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com


  1. I feel your pain! I covet Lulu things and then I hate myself for it :). It creates my own love/hate internal battle with myself--my well-balanced self and the one that craves the shiny toy or well-crafted yoga top (whatever it may be). Luckily these days money binds as they are I don't have to worry about lulu cravings as I haven't the pocket for them :). But just wait till I get my raise--then the battle will be on again! Thank you for being honest about your internal struggle--it is always good to hear that I'm not alone. You don't have any good Florida based alternative ideas, do you? :)

  2. I have to admit that having lived in Halifax when the Lulu boom started and then moving to Toronto before the Halifax store opened, I feel like the whole craze kind of passed me by.

    Also, up until this Sunday, I work for Roots, who is obviously one of their competitors. I didn't want to say who my employer was before, but now that I won't be with the company much longer, I feel all right about writing about it on the internets.

    I already worked at Roots when I started practicing yoga, so of course I bought their stuff because a) I got a nice discount, and b) I could wear it to work. Their pants are about half the price of Lulu's to begin with, so with my discount they were pretty darn reasonable. Also, they last a really long time (I'm still wearing my first pair from three years ago).

    I have to admit, when I first started at Roots I was somewhat skeptical of their yoga wear - I thought they were jumping on the yoga bandwagon, they wanted to be like Lulu, etc. Then I met the director of the Roots Yoga Studio (which is just above the store that I currently run, and where I do most of my classes) and honestly, she is just the sweetest, most wonderful person. She's married to one of the owners of Roots, and she's been practicing for over 20 years and she is just so loving and kind and thoughtful. So between her, and the fact that I know Roots is trying (even if they don't always succeed) to use more sustainable fabrics, I feel a lot better about it.

    Sorry that was so long-winded! And sorry if it came off as an advertisement for Roots, because that's totally not how I intended it to be! Maybe I'm just pre-nostalgic about leaving my job.

  3. Lululemon is ubitquitous in the yoga community, even here in Australia. They make pretty yoga clothes, really pretty. And given how much time yoga types spend in work out gear, the allure is understandable.

    Thus far I have only a Lulu mat. It hasn't flaked too much, but yes, its flaked. Still a good mat however.

    I do like the look of Lulu stuff, but the prices make me baulk. That's probably the one thing that's kept me from shopping there to be honest.

    But every other yoga teacher I see is wearing the stuff. And many students too. Some people are head to toe Lulu.

    And when something is that popular, I tend not to want to buy in. Unless of course, we're talking about technology. That said, I don't even have an iPhone yet!!

    Give me a little more time, a more permanent job and I'm sure I'll succumb at least a little. But I will never, NEVER have a wardrobe full of Lulu clothes. Its just not how I roll.

  4. Quite honestly, I'm such a pure old-school eco-yogi I don't even know if Lulu makes clothing for men.

    Then, on the other hand, I drive a Humvee Limo that gets about .05 miles to the gallon, own a chemical company that I've made incredibly profitable through finding loopholes in local dumping laws, think there's nothing quite like a dolphin steak, and am thinking about marketing a new line of DVD's of hardcore pornstars doing naked yoga...

    Okay, none of that's actually true (except the Lululemon part--though that's probably just because I've been too broke to buy new clothing for the last year or two)...but I still like you, anyway...

  5. Marketing is a nasty thing... Half truths and spin. How do you compare products based on marketing? How do you find those lovely little precious gems?

  6. Teresa: yay not alone! I'm not sure about Florida alternatives- although I know that Patagonia (pantagonia?) has FABULOUSLY eco-friendly and awesome clothing. including yoga wear! They just don't happen to have an actual store near me... perhaps near you?

    Annabellie: ohhhh- i was wondering actually! Yes- Roots does have some fun stuff- the store in Halifax doesn't have a lot of sustainable clothing or yoga options though. Sigh- i guess I shouldn't be surprised.
    It's so wonderful that you had such a nice relationship :)

    svasti: yep- your thoughts are exactly my gut reaction (take away my consumerism)- they are so popular so I hate them. Kinda like a punk attitude. Except I also like pretty things... lol.

    Dr. Jay: haha- those dolphins sure are tasty. Actually- they do make clothing for men- Andrew has two options for yoga-running and he likes them (I bought him some pants pre-halifax).

    Rose: so true.

  7. I'm a little sketched out by Lululemon. Any company that buys up that much ad space in Yoga Journal (don't get me started on YJ) clearly doesn't need my money, and I can't afford their clothing anyway. Seriously, my yoga clothes are from Target. There is a Lulu store about 20min from my house, but I still don't think I'll go there. Free classes would be tempting, but their association with Landmark Forum creeps me out.

  8. I agree with Vegan Burnout. I have never even stepped foot into a Lululemon store because I just cannot afford their clothing! In fact, the way the economy is in the USA, I am not even sure how anyone else can afford it either. Therefore, I have no opinion of their clothing. I do, however, read a lot about their classes and workshops, and I think what they are doing in they community is great. So yes, the love/hate relationship with Lululemon is in all of us!

  9. May I interrupt this lovely post to announce you are the winner of my name my new digs contest!!!!!!! Stop over to celebrate and email me your important info!!!


    BIG hugzzzzz,

  10. Looks like the New York Times read your mind: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/fashion/15CRITIC.ready.html?ref=style

  11. Have you ever seen the parody skit by the Royal Canadian Air Farce, where they rename the store KuKu Melon? It is hilarious! It was right after the whole "luon" material 'scandal' a few years ago. The one time I was in LLL to buy a sports bra, they were shocked when I declined their trendy bag. Later I gave the bra away to my sister because it didn't really fit me as well as they said it would....

  12. The Lulu Groove pants are perfect for me. Period.

  13. I have never actually been in a Lululemon, believe it or not. We don't have one in Central Oregon. I hadn't even taken notice of it until someone told me they got their cute hat from Lulu.

    I'm furious about their Made in China tags! Do they really think that will work?! It's infuriating!i

  14. We tend to have more of the yoga & sustainable stuff at our store, because of the studio. We're the only store that sells the Klean Kanteen bottles as far as I know, and one of few to carry some Halfmoon and Dear Lil Deva stuff too.

    Also, we have a t-shirt that I feel like you will appreciate in a way that no one in my store really gets. It advertises a fake record store in Halifax called "Evangeline Records". I keep telling my staff "No, no, you don't understand, whoever designed this actually did their research because Evangeline is a traditional Acadian name because of the Longfellow poem and there are a lot of Acadians in Halifax and blah blah blah..." Sadly, they don't get it at all!

  15. This is great - I am really into this dialogue. I was just talking to the Tonic peeps and they saw you blog and said "Thanks Eco Yogini!"

  16. Hi,
    I also live in halifax:) I have seen your comments on the crunchy chicken blog. I don't currently take yoga classes but I did back in the early 80s. People did yoga just fine before lulu lemon existed. Even if I wanted to, I find the prices offensive at lulu lemon. There are knockoff types of stuff everywhere including at the big superstores.
    I am sure too that if you look often enough, you can find clothes that will work for yoga second hand at places like value village.

  17. This is to the blogger!
    I live in the States- have never walked into a Lulu store simply because the gym I used to go to had a small shop and they brought in Lulu things and I immediately looked at the tags, saw they were "designed in Canada, made in China" and walked out. I have been able to find nice yoga clothing made in the U.S. from organic cotton and I know there was at least one company that makes them in Canada. I wish I could remember the name... but they advertise in Yoga Journal. One of the small ads on the sides of the page.... Anyway, BePresent and InnerWaves both manufacture in the U.S. I try to buy from the U.S. and Canada whenever possible, and will go way out of my way and even spend a bit more, to do so. It's great to find there are kindred spirits out there.

    Philly Yogini


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