Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts on Lululemon and Their 'Bottom Line'

The beginning of 'Salutation Nation'- the International 'Ohm' Lululemon sponsored yoga event this Saturday, the ambassador leading the class intro'd with a little speech about Lululemon.

This speech, although I was strangely surprised (I shouldn't have been, Lulu was hosting it), brought up some interesting points of consideration. Many of which I do not agree with... even though I was there and took part in the event, since it was free.
Our first spot w Miss Veronica and Andrew's bike, Mr Manelli (he's not very original). Unfortunately, softball games were everywhere and a ball actually flew into the crowd almost hitting a yogi... so we moved. The second spot was actually better :)

Firstly, before I get into the good stuff, here are some positives of Salutation Nation:
- It did bring over 200 yogis, practicing together. Although mostly university aged students, there were mothers and their children as well as some guys and a few 'post-university' yogis.
- Practicing with that many people outside was pretty darn neat to see!
- Everyone was pretty positive, the overall message was positive (if not somewhat 'foofy').
- It provided an opportunity to practice yoga for free- woot!

- While over 200 yogis were lying down for savasana, I stuck out like a sore thumb in my seated meditation. I made sure to take off my sunglasses to make it more obvious that I was meditating and not just being difficult. I was SO nervous- I knew the ambassador could see me... sitting up amidst a sea of corpses. I closed my eyes and just tried to breathe, mentally preparing for when a helper instructor would come up and ask some questions. Instead- I felt a leg against my back and an instructor's hands opening my shoulders as if I were in savasana. Such a moment of honest and open acceptance brought a few tears to my eyes. I was (am!) so grateful to that instructor that I actually said 'Thank you' out loud (without opening my eyes) after she finished.  
Our final practicing space- those empty green spots quickly filled in!

Alright, the points of contention. 
The ambassador's opening speech went something like this: 'Lululemon is a fantastic company that does so much for our communities across the globe. They're manifesto is 'Elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness' (this is their 'vision statement' actually)...' and continue onward with 'Yay Lululemon is so great and wonderful' speech with how their main purpose is to bring together community and a healthy lifestyle. It was a serious 3-5min of gushing, an 'Ode to Lululemon'.

I get that as an ambassador OF Lululemon, at an event that is hosted by Lululemon would begin by thanking the company for organizing and sponsoring the event. I expected a short something thanking them.

However. To imply that Lululemon's *main purpose* is to support community is ridiculous. Lululemon, a company with CEOs, lawyers, accountants and PR-planning committees, has as it's main goal to make money and sell clothing. That is the ultimate goal. Sure, they have many 'community' based events (for the most part in their store- where participants can see all the wonderful products waiting to be bought), but this isn't Lululemon's bottom line. We all know this. Lululemon doesn't set up shop in the most impoverished and in-need neighbourhoods, countries and cultures globally. They have stores, set up to sell costly clothing (not even made in that country) to upper middle and upper class women and men. The community events aren't geared for the homeless, or the impoverished, but to the market of people who could potentially purchase their clothing.

Cynical? Perhaps a bit, but I'd be surprised if the upper circle of the company thought differently.

What would make them a truly inspirational company?

- If they invested some of that time, energy and money into creating and manufacturing all their clothing from environmentally sustainable fabrics in low or ZERO carbon footprint and pollution factories.

- If they manufactured their clothing IN the country they sold them, instead of factories located in impoverished countries with lower health, environmental and work policies as well as workers that made a pay we'd find unacceptably low.

- By investing in local, Canadian (or American) factories, they'd lower the carbon footprint created by the huge container ships they need to use to ship the clothing, as well as *truly* be investing and supporting local communities and economies.

- Instead of community events in their store, wouldn't it be beautiful if they sponsored health and yoga events for those who are actually in need; such as the homeless, women's shelters, those who struggle with mental health or illness. (Supposedly each store has 'charitable giving' that the consumer's choose local charities to 'give back'- when I searched the Halifax store site there was no information. I have never ever heard of Lulu hosting a charitable event in Halifax, Montréal or Kelowna- where I've lived. If they do, it's the exception and not the rule).

Hey, I own some Lulu clothing and obviously am willing to take advantage of a free yoga class they've organized. However, I'm not going to pretend that this Business's bottom line is something other than making money and selling clothing.

There are so many other local companies that invest and actually do give back to our communities (like LoveMe Boutique who sells only Canadian Hand Made products, or Bhavana who offers Canadian and American, sustainably made yoga clothing) who truly have more than 'selling clothes' as their bottom line.

I am not 'Anti-Lulu', I'm more of a 'let's be real' kinda yogini.

article and photograph copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Definitely can see your points for contention---big business sometimes have the best of intentions but it's still big business and incredibly easy to sell out. Glad to hear they are doing some great community building events though and that it was a wonderful opportunity for you to practice with such a large community of other yogis! :)

  2. This is so true- and I will say my first connection to Lulu was when they donated all the mats used at the non-profit karma yoga studio that I went to/ trained with in Seattle- The Samarya Center. They helped Samarya to do amazing things in the community. This may be an exception but worth noting.

  3. This is an excellent post. One of the problems with large corporations like this is that they do "just enough," give "just enough," to look good enough to those who aren't willing to consider things more closely.

    Consider that in one financial quarter (3 months), they took in $33 million in profits.

    So, if this were really a company dedicated to the community, you'd expect a significant amount of giving back - something I don't think can be said.

    Another thing to consider is the nature of these free gatherings. As Eco-yogini points out, it's as much a pepfest for the company as a chance to practice together. Furthermore, community-building is much more than getting people to practice together for an hour or two.

    Forgive me, but the feel good nature of corporate charity tends to grate on me. And I haven't seen a lot from Lulu that demonstrates moving beyond feel good, or small gestures that might help a few, but really don't balance out the piles of money being raked in.

  4. I admit, I love lululemon clothes. And they make my middle-aged bottom line look great (I'm not proud that that's important to me either). But I totally agree with you, their bottom-line involves corporate $$$, not community. On the plus side, they have helped bring yoga to people who may never have discovered it otherwise, their free classes get people moving, even if it does serve to get them into the store.

    They are a business, and the best that we can do is be cognizant of that fact, and promote other community building events.

    I love that the teacher was accepting of your decision to meditate in a seated position rather than savasana--that is good yoga, no matter whose symbol is on your bottom-line :)

  5. @Simply Authentic: i think lulu sold out so long ago it's barely a blip in their history. That said- you're right- it was a fun experience that day :)

    @LucyD: that's very cool that they did that!

    @Nathan: exactly. I agree with you 100%. Building community requires so much more.

    @Nicole: PERFECT- symbol on your 'bottom line'. love it! you got it exactly :)

  6. I am in total agreement. I have also attended a few of the lululemon sponsored yoga events and they have been wonderful, but at the end of the day they are still a for-profit company.

  7. I resent Lululemon because they are so good at getting into people's heads and creating an incredibly corporate, pseudo-spiritual brand of yoga. The classes in stores, the big "community" (really marketing) events, the ambassadors (co-opting local teachers), the "inspirational" messages, the friendly young women offering to help me "set goals" at a yoga conference, the requirement that employees do Landmark Forum trainings after one year (which I find the most objectionable of all), the touting of "The Secret" - all in all a fiendishly clever marketing campaign.

    The discussion over the pants misses the larger point, which is how this full-scale, incredibly sophisticated and well-financed corporate blitzkreig impacts the culture of contemporary yoga. I think that it's having a big effect, and don't like it at all.

  8. i'm glad you brought this up - no matter what, it's retail and it's a business, otherwise they'd be a nonprofit. i worked for one of the biggest sports apparel companies in the world and they would go on and on about how they were all for kids but beyond sponsoring teams, they did very little for the communities - only one person in the entire country to cover all community outreach efforts which included sustainability? and, as with lululemon, no interest in getting out of using cheap foreign labor, and i finally just fell out of love learning about how they really do business, very deflating.

  9. @It's a Yoga Thang: *bows* :)

    @Becca: yep- I think it's important to keep that in mind.

    @Carol: thank you for your comment- I agree wholeheartedly. I also agree that comments and observations re: clothing preference etc, misses the point. I'm not sure about 'the discussion about pants'- as I didn't see one (the title's post was a complete fluke honestly, I truly was referring their actual 'bottom line' and not 'bottoms'...).

    It is frustrating though to hear yogis say things like 'But I just love their top/pants/shirts- they fit so well!' in response to any criticism with regards to how the company functions. I also love their top/pants/shirts, but I think it's important to recognize that this company is just that- a company aimed at making money.

    And there are other companies who do this in a much more responsibly and transparent manner.

  10. @EcoGrrl: This is a fantastic point: 'Otherwise they'd be nonprofit'.

  11. Glad to see anyone see through Lululemon. I have never bought, nor will I ever buy, one item of their clothing. I have managed to practice yoga for a number of years without them. I'm one who doesn't need special "yoga clothing" anyway but on those rare occasions when I've bought any, it's been American/Canadian made organic cotton. Otherwise I'll wear my husband's old sweat pants. Yes, I am anti-Lulu for a whole slew of reasons. If they managed to do just one of the things you listed, I might soften a bit.

  12. Hi Eco - thanks for your response - just to clarify - my comment about "the discussion about pants" was not actually in reference to your post - rather, as you pointed out, how the general discussion always seems to go to that whenever this issue comes up. While it's good to be conscious about what clothing you buy and why, most definitely, it's important to try to keep the other, less tangible issues in mind as well.

  13. joI have similar conflicted feelings towards lulu. I too own their stuff - it's durable and functional. But of late I have been tending towards the indie and ethical again. And that good old eco-stnadby, buying less. I am pretty sure it's going to be YEARS before I honestly need another pair of yoga pants :)
    Want, well, that's another story...


I love hearing from you! So I don't miss a comment, I like "pre-approving" them :)
I ask only that we stay respectful.
Also, please note that this is a personal blog and not a space for advertising your company. I reserve the right to delete "advertising" comments.

**NB: The ANONYMOUS option is the BEST way to comment if you don't have a blogger or established google/gmail account.