Bram Levinson

lululemonThey say that any publicity is good publicity, and it seems like this past week is no exception for Lululemon. In an interview for Bloomberg TV, Lulu founder Chip Wilson was responding to issues with the pilling of some of the company’s women’s yoga pants when he said, “There’s always been pilling. The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don’t work [with the pants], or they’ll wear a purse that doesn’t work, or quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it.” The media jumped all over this, as did what seems to be the entire yoga community. The media’s behaviour is never going to change, because they emphasize what serves to draw in viewers, readers, and hits to their websites. I’ve got a message for the global yoga community, however, and I want you to pay attention.

I don’t know Chip. I’ve never met him, and I may never. My relationship to him is irrelevant. The fact is, he’s a guy. A human being. And every single one of you reading this has said something at one point or another in your life that, if recorded and turned into a sound byte to be replayed over and over again, would make you look pretty stupid/insensitive/selfish/callous, etc… I’m not going to defend what Chip said, because it sounds pretty hard core. However, I understand what he was trying to say. I’ve gained and lost weight throughout my lifetime, and I know what it means for my jeans to feel tight on me when the weight I’ve gained on my thighs causes the fabric between them to start to wear away from the friction of them rubbing together. If the president of Levi’s came out and said that some people just don’t have the right body type to wear the jeans, insinuating that I’m the cause of the wearing away of the fabric, I’d be pissed off as well. I’d resent not having the head of the company fess up to the fabric itself not being resilient enough to handle my body type. But as Wilson says earlier on in the same interview that very few people have stopped to listen to in its entirety, “The thing is when you push technology…we are a technology company, and when you push technology that’s not like software, an actual physical product, there’s a thousand things that could go wrong on a technical fabric. It’s almost impossible to build a quality control case for each one of those combinations.”

The work Lululemon is doing with clothes and technical fabrics is always a work in progress. I know this because I have sat down with designers and buyers to discuss existing issues with the clothes and what could be done to improve the quality, wearability, design and durability of the products. Chip admits to having made mistakes in the past, and his choice of words relating to the pilling issue may just be the latest one he’ll make. But it won’t be the last one. You know why? Because the guy is human and he’s doing his best, just like every single one of you were the last time you fucked up in public and had the reflection of your words or actions mirrored back to you by the people around you.

The fact of the matter is this, yogis: we should know better. We should know better than to start spreading hate and judgement all over the internet because we feel wrong done by. Every single second of every single yoga or meditation practice we’ve ever chosen to spend our time and energy on was intended to teach us that connection is our goal. We are being divided and separated by our governments, by lobbyists, and by heads of companies that have something to gain by making us feel less than, and if Chip and Lululemon fall into that category for you as an individual, then so be it. But hold on a second – every single thing we’ve learned from the yoga teachers and teachings is meant to be applied between stimulus and response. We get riled up by something, and…HANG ON…how are we going to react? How do we want to impact the world? We’re supposed to know better. What promotes unity and evolution when faced with the threat of separation? Throwing judgement and venom around or doing every thing you possibly can to do your part to make sure it doesn’t happen again? For those of you who have gone off on a downward spiral of self-indignation and anger, did you take a moment to write a letter to Lululemon’s team in Vancouver or to a store manager in your community to suggest that the issue of the fabric should be looked at again as the strive to produce technological fabrics that work with all bodies evolves? Did you decide to give Chip a break by remembering when you too said something that might offend and focus on what good Lululemon has done so far in its evolution as a community-driven company?

I’ve already written about what Lululemon means to me and how this company has been by my side as I’ve found my feet and worked harder than I’ve ever worked before at bringing connection back to the world. You can find those posts here, here, here, here & here. The team at Lululemon has sent me flowers to congratulate me on the evolution of my career. They have invested in my well-being so that I can continue to effect change in the lives of others. They have helped me get teaching gigs at major international yoga festivals, and they are holding a special event to help launch and promote The Examined Life, a book I diligently and painstakingly worked on for over 18 months. They have and continue to be my family, and if your brother made an off-the-cuff comment on TV and the world turned on him to beat the crap out of him, you’d get defensive as well.

The fact of the matter is this: Chip has created an incredible company. Nothing is ever one thing, and there will always be growing pains, so those of you who are content listing every bump in the road that Lulu has endured to post online and stir up the tsunami of anger can continue on. But you’re missing the point entirely and just contributing to separation. We should be coming together as a community to help Lulu get over this bump and be better for it instead of trying to tear them down. I’ve written about this in the book – we build up the people and companies that we find revolutionary and in keeping with how we want the world to be, but when those same people show the slightest hint of humanity, we tear them down and set fire to them. It’s time to grow up and ask if we’re pulling our community down or contributing to its growth and long-term well-being with our thoughts, words and actions.

You may not agree with my thoughts and opinion, and that’s how it should be. I’m as much of a work in progress as Chip and Lululemon are. I’m as much of a work in progress as you are. Let’s do what we can to make things work for everyone, ensuring that we create the space in which anyone is allowed to fall and fuck up, knowing that they will have support and helping hands to stand back up with. No one gets it right on the first attempt, but to try and shoot everyone down who tried something new would ensure that we stay stuck and stagnant, and my entire career is based on moving forwards and re-instating connection. Don’t get distracted from what you seek long-term, and make it your mission to see that become reality no matter what you have to give. Stand up and contribute instead of branding those who display the slightest shred of humanity with a scarlet letter. We know better, so let’s apply what we know.

0 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for putting this whole hot mess into perspective. I agree so much with you about knowing better as a yogi. Chip put his foot in his mouth, no doubt about it, but he is human and in the grand scale of all things this is just a little blip! Only feelings were hurt, think about the many companies who have exploited people for profit and when you do Chip’s slip is pretty minor!

  2. I hear what you’re saying about Lululemon creating a community; I’ve been buying Lululemon since 1998. However, I strongly believe that any community is based on open and honest communication, and communication is a two-way street. I think the anger and vitriol that we’re seeing now has its roots in the fact that Lululemon has not been listening to its customers for a very long time now. I’ve seen many customers who are frustrated and disappointed by Lulu’s responses to multiple quality issues (bleeding fabrics, sheer pants, shoddy seamwork, fishy odour, pilling, just to name a few). I am willing to forgive and keep an open mind, but I’m also at the stage where Lulu is going to have to really turn things around in order to earn my trust (and my dollars).

  3. I am pretty slim myself but I happen to have very narrow hips and guess what? All my jeans and yoga pants wear in the crouch and the inner thighs. You don’t need to be overweight to have your inner thighs rubbing against each other, how about muscular people? This was totally blow out of proportion. People, get a grip on your insecurities!
    Thank you Bram for putting things into perpective.

  4. Yea but the clothes are still too pricey. I had some Lululemon employees come to my studio and they expected to get a free class because of where they worked and acted shocked when I had not really heard of the store. Then, I decied to venture n the store and was told I could not by mens pants with my yoga teacher discount )cause they were obviously not for me). I get double the discount at Athleta and no one asks questions there and they are happy to give me the discount. So, when I heard Chips public blunder it came as no surprise. Nope you won’t find me spending $ there! If the clothes are that great then I will find some at a consignment store.

  5. Sounds like self-justification to me. So anytime a yogi/yogini expresses an opinion that’s not all sunshine and lollipops, they get reprimanded for being “un-yogic”? Sorry, I have a mind and I will speak it. Have another sip of that Kool-Aid.

    1. Dear PS in NY,

      I think you missed the entire message in my post, which has prompted me to reply. I don’t defend what Chip said. It was a stupid comment to make. What I intended on getting across is that there’s enough hatred and negativity being thrown around in our world today, as you seem to reinforce in your comment to me. Your comment was hurtful. I don’t drink the “kool-aid”, as you put it, and you’d know that if you took a minute to read my post about the Landmark forum before lashing out at me. As yoga practitioners we should know that our responsibility to the world is to keep positivity alive and to give people the benefit of the doubt when they fuck up, and so I’m giving it to you. I’m fully behind anyone who speaks their mind and makes their opinion known, but we need to be aware that we can do so constructively, in a way that effects change and benefits everyone, or we can lash out with caustic remarks and spread darkness and hate. The decision is one to be taken with thought and responsibility. Be well.

  6. I’ve had an issue with Lulu for years, because I simply do not understand why it is associated with yoga in the first place. It seems to me that to truly care about connection we would ensure the products we buy respect the rights and lives of other people we share this earth with. That would mean buying products that are fair trade, fair labor, and made with materials that are good for the earth’s systems. Lulu has none of these goals as a company and this hardly every comes up as a criticism. It’s all about style and status–which again, I just don’t understand how it is related to yoga in any way. If certain individuals get a benefit from something at the expense of the whole, is that really what we’re about?

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