After asking Lululemon founder Chip Wilson to kiss my fat yoga a** in December, Lululemon has finally agreed to let me talk to the new CEO, Laurent Potdevin. On April 26 at the Yoga Journal LIVE! conference in New York City, a panel with Lululemon executives and some regular ol' yoga teachers (including yours truly) will convene to discuss, "the delicate balance of spiritual values and corporate responsibility."
I can't even believe those two things just got put into one sentence.
I don't know that spiritual values could ever really coincide with corporate responsibility. Particularly when the singular aim of any corporation is to make fat cash for its shareholders (FYI, Lululemon's biggest shareholder is still Chip Wilson). Lululemon had a terrible 2013. Just in case you didn't hear, their pants were too sheer, their founder blamed the size of women's thighs, we heard rumors of child labor, they are going after people reselling their clothes and they allegedly discriminate against heavier people... and I would argue, the case could be made that they discriminate against other groups as well... I just toured lululemon.com and didn't see a whole lot of color or curves, and certainly not anyone over the ripe old age of... maybe 25?
Anyway, Lulu's stock has dropped both in the market and in the public eye. And despite taking his post in January, we really haven't heard much of anything but fancy terms and rhetoric from the new CEO, Laurent Potdevin, and not until just recently at the fourth quarter earnings review at the end of March. Here's one line from that phone call:
2014 is an investment year with an emphasis on strengthening our foundation, reigniting our product engine, and accelerating sustainable and controlled global expansion. Lululemon's magic has been built by creating technical beautiful product and sharing our distinct culture with our communities. (From Yahoo! Finance)
Um. What? That feels like a lot of glossy words to me. And here's the thing I take the biggest issue with: They're bent on "sharing our distinct culture with our communities." It's been shown that the distinct culture of Lululemon was developed by the founder, Chip Wilson, and is based on the values of Ayn Rand (do you remember those "Who is John Galt?" bags?) and Landmark Education. Lululemon is a company whose values are based in individualistic, goal-oriented objectivism, and has developed what has been called a "cult of selling" that leaves Lululemon fat (which I guess is OK when it comes to bank accounts) and the yoga community bewildered by their marketing techniques. These values, well-documented by fellow blogger (and panelist!), Carol Horton, which have clearly helped run Lululemon amok in the last year are only part of what worry me. What worries me is that they're trying to "share" these values with our community. The yoga community.
How about this? No f*cking way.
Yoga has it's OWN value system, thankyouverymuch. 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.
I'm aware that this panel discussion is stacked in Lululemon's favor -- they have more representation on the panel then those who are speaking out against them. And, there is only an hour allotted for the discussion. But, what if we could ALL say what we needed to say to Lululemon? What if you could tell them how you've been fat-shamed? Or, why you quit working at their stores? What if you could tell them about what they've been doing well, and what they could keep doing better? If you had an audience with Lululemon's CEO, what would YOU say?
It's important that they hear your voice -- all of our voices.
Because, I don't want to just walk in with my words. I want to walk in with yours. So, here's what I'm asking. Send an email to email@example.com with exactly what you want to say, and I will bring it with me on April 26th and present it to Mr. Potdevin and his team. Because if they are going to fix anything, they need to know where we -- the yoga community -- are coming from and what our values are. Not the other way around.
You can also Tweet your #yogaisbiggerthanpants story to me at @AlannaKaivalya.
Read my original piece about Lululemon where I asked Chip Wilson to Kiss my Fat Yoga Ass.