If you were thinking about taking up a few hot yoga classes or looking to begin your “Pilates Princess” journey to kick off the new year, there is one brand that seemingly wants no part in outfitting “certain demographics” for these endeavors: Lululemon.
In an interview with Forbes, brand founder Chip Wilson minced few words when stating that the brand needs to be “clear that you don’t want certain customers coming in.” This, a direct pushback to the company’s diversity initiatives, which he describes as an effort “to be everything to everybody” — a big no-no in Wilson’s book.
Founded in 1998, Lululemon has been the long-standing champ of the elusive world of athleisure wear. Their famously soft leggings made them the ultimate garb in the wardrobe arsenals of stay-at-home wives and college sorority girls. Now, 25 years later, the brand has maintained synonymity with the advantageous lifestyle illustrated by well-to-do suburban moms. This association with said idealized lifestyles makes these statements from Wilson a bit less surprising, considering many societal emblems of status were not crafted with “certain demographics” in mind.
While he doesn’t explicitly say which demographics he thinks should be excluded, he has gotten heat in the past for his comments regarding plus-sized women not being ideal customers and the humor he finds in the way Japanese people pronounce the name he gave the brand.
Naturally, the first instinct for many is to boycott the brand, as many DEI specialists have encouraged, and many users, particularly Black creators, have taken to TikTok to share that they would never want to pay that much for workout wear in the first place. However, it is worth clarifying that Wilson stepped down from the company in 2015, meaning he has virtually no dealings in its operations besides his 8% stake. One creator, a Black woman whom Lululemon employs, pointed out in a recent haul that this is why she still feels comfortable working with and supporting the brand.
These make his xenophobic, fatphobic and loaded racial comments more of a PR nightmare for Lululemon than an actual reflection of their current brand ethos.
“Chip Wilson does not speak for Lululemon, and his comments do not reflect our company views or beliefs,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “Chip has not been involved with the company since his resignation from the board in 2015 and we are a very different company today.”
With an estimated net worth of $7 billion, he’s likely not too worried about alienating segments of the brand’s consumer base anyways.
His distance from the company aside, though, Lululemon is not wholly absolved from sketchy behavior when it comes to diversity. A 2023 Business of Fashion article detailed accounts of racial discrimination as detailed by 14 employees of the company.
More than anything, moments like this in fashion serve as a sobering reality check that try as we might, we can not buy our way into certain circles whose prominence relies on excluding or mistreating those like us.