Maybe customers and potential customers would have been less annoyed with Lululemon founder and chairman Chip Wilson if he hadn’t gone on Bloomberg News and called them all fat in response to an interviewer’s question about his company’s controversial sheer-butt yoga pants. It doesn’t matter now: Wilson is stepping down as chairman at the end of this fiscal year, even though he’ll stay on as a board member.
It was just a little over a month ago that Wilson and his wife (co-founders of Lululemon) appeared on Bloomberg News to talk about the company. When asked about complaints of pilling on the fabric of Lululemon pants, Wilson’s explanation was simple: hey, some women’s bodies aren’t right for the pants.
“It’s more really about the rubbing through the thighs,” he said, “how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.” The more gracious way to explain that might have been that the pants don’t work for all body types. His remarks drew a lot of publicity for the Canadian company…but not the good kind.
Some people also took offense to the 2009 blog entry where he explained that birth control pills, breast cancer, smoking, and the founding of his company were all inter-related. Maybe these explanations would have made fans less angry had they come from a female executive…or maybe that would have made them worse.
Previous casualties of the yoga pants controversy were CEO Christine Day and product chief Sheree Waterson. This change allows the new CEO, Laurent Potdevin, who most recently was CEO of shoe company Toms, to make something of a fresh start.
As a woman who doesn’t fit in regular Lululemon sizes, I wish them luck. Maybe they could launch a sister brand for larger yoga fans, called Lulumelon.
Lululemon founder stepping down as chairman [Washington Post]