Nov 8 When the founder of athletic apparel
business Lululemon said his products were wrong for certain body
shapes, some customers were quick to take offense, creating a
potential public relations headache for the highly successful
"Quite frankly, some women's bodies just actually don't work
for it (his clothing)," Chip Wilson said in an interview with
Bloomberg TV this week. "They don't work for some women's
From New York to San Francisco, reaction was harsh.
"It's absolutely ridiculous. I've shopped there before, but
I won't again," said Sashea Lawson, a triathlete and distance
runner in New York City.
Across the country, barista and runner Raine Stark said
women were tired of pressure to achieve "upper thigh clearance."
"It's problematic to try to shame women or push one body
form," said Stark, 23, at an Oakland fitness shop. "If your
thighs touch, it doesn't affect your quality of life. It's
The company did not immediately respond to requests for
Wilson created a phenomenal success story with Lululemon
Athletica Inc, whose net revenues have soared nine-fold
since 2006 to $1.37 billion by the end of fiscal 2012.
Investors love the company, whose forward price-to-earnings
ratio stands at 29.7 against the 18.0 median of its peers,
according to Thomson Reuters data. Revenue for the next 12
months is expected to grow 20.8 percent, nearly four times the
5.4 percent expected from its peers.
But the maker of form-fitting workout clothes has hit some
Some Lululemon yoga pants were so sheer as to be
see-through, leading to a recall in March that will cost $57
million to $67 million in sales this year. In June, chief
executive officer Christine Day unexpectedly announced she was
leaving. Recently, the company received complaints its products
were susceptible to little pills on the fabric, or pilling.
Wilson was discussing the pilling issue in the TV interview
when he made the comment about women's bodies.
"It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much
pressure is there over a period of time and how much they use
it," Wilson said.
The triathlete Lawson said Wilson should stand by his
product rather than blame his customers. Others were perplexed,
believing Lululemon was made for every woman.
"They are supposed to sort of make every body shape
flattering. That's what I've always heard from the sales people,
who are always super helpful, super nice," said Leila Richards,
who has been practicing yoga for 20 years and only recently
started shopping at Lululemon.
Still, there were those who thought Wilson might have a
point, even if it hurts his business.
"People need to be conscious of how they present themselves
in public," said Anne Baker, 25, of Brooklyn. "He probably
shouldn't have said it. It's going to be horrible PR. But it
doesn't mean it isn't true."