Lululemon founder Chip Wilson is taking backlash for his recent comments about the brand’s adoption of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies — which he said led to the use of “unhealthy,” “sickly,” and “not inspirational” models to promote the brand.
Wilson, who left the company in 2015, but remains its largest individual shareholder, complained that with the move to include models he deemed “unhealthy,” the company was moving toward promoting diversity over health and fitness.
“They’re trying to become like the Gap, everything to everybody. And I think the definition of a brand is that you’re not everything to everybody,” he explained during an interview with Forbes. “You’ve got to be clear that you don’t want certain customers coming in.”
Joanna Schwartz, a marketing professor at Georgia College & State University, told Newsweek that the brand’s success was in part derived from its refusal to be “everything to everybody,” explaining that instead, they worked hard to “super-serve their core” — wealthy, fit, and usually younger women.
“That has made Lululemon an aspirational brand that represents very high-quality, expensive goods that are rarely significantly discounted. It’s also a lifestyle brand that is really captured by some of the word representations they create around their brand ideas, focus on intentionality, oneness and yoga,” she added.
Schwartz went on to suggest that remaining in that mindset would be counterproductive, however — and suggested apparently without evidence that Wilson had also been opposed to including models of diverse races and ethnicities.
“He clearly sees Lululemon as a brand where a large percentage of the population isn’t welcome. In light of that kind of opposition, it’s really impressive that the brand has pushed against that to include a greater racial and ethnic diversity, and by addressing the brand’s formerly long-standing sizeism, which includes a focus almost exclusively on women’s sizes 00-10,” she said.
Wilson has triggered the woke mob on at least one previous occasion — when he said that not all women were built for the company’s yoga pants — which resulted in him stepping down as chairman of the board in 2013.