Lululemon Insider Claims the Brand Purposefully Shunned Plus-Size Shoppers
4:29 pm, July 31st | by Grace Rasmus
Lululemon has received a lot of heat for its infamous $100 yoga pants, with most complaints directed at the pants’ sheerness and increasingly poor quality after the implementation of new cost-cutting production measures. A new controversy alleges that the brand purposefully doesn’t cater to “plus-sized” (technically average-sized) women.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, former Lululemon employee Elizabeth Licorish exposed the store’s conscious effort to keep their largest sizes — 10s and 12s — away from the main showroom. In the Philadelphia store where Licorish worked for four months, most Lululemon merchandise was presented out on the floor, hung on the walls, or folded neatly in cabinets for all to see. The larger sizes, however, were relegated to a separate area at the back of the store, left clumped and unfolded under a table.
“All the other merchandise in the store was kind of sacred, but these were thrown in a heap. It was definitely discriminatory to those who wear larger sizes,” she said, adding that these these larger sizes were rarely restocked and only available in outdated, discontinued styles. ”There was sort of a grumpy response to people who weren’t familiar with the brand. Moms would come in with their daughters, look around and say, ‘Clearly I can’t shop here.’”
“Far from an accident, the exiling of larger clothing by Lululemon is a central piece of the company’s strategy to market its brand as the look of choice for the stylishly fitness-conscious, according to former employees and consumer advocates,” wrote HuffPo’s Kim Bhasin. “They say this treatment of larger clothes and customers reflects the culture that Lululemon represents — one that falsely suggests skinniness is the paramount feature of health.”
In an interview with the Calgary Herald in 2005, Lululemon founder and former CEO Chip Wilson said that it takes 30 percent more fabric to create plus-size clothes, meaning that he would have to charge a higher price for them. That’s something Wilson claimed he would never do because plus-size people are sensitive and the company would feel intense fallout from the community. “It’s a money loser, for sure,” he said. “I understand their plight, but it’s tough.”
Lululemon isn’t alone — brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch have recently faced backlash for weight discrimination. Yet, while the A&F CEO made explicit comments bashing plus-sized customers, Lululemon proselytized self-acceptance with its 2010 “love your body” campaign, a hypocrisy that many commenters have pointed out. So what are plus-sized women to do, Lululemon? Society shames these women and bullies them into “getting healthy” and “losing weight” but, when they make concerted efforts to work out, companies like yours decide that they are too fat to wear your exercise clothing.
Here’s our advice for size 10+ shoppers: you don’t deserve “dusty” clothes and Lululemon doesn’t deserve your money. Take your business elsewhere, to companies that will actually care about you and your business. The yoga and athletic-wear realm has seen steady movement toward the plus-size crowd, including Lululemon’s biggest competitor, Gap’s yoga brand Athleta. You’ll probably get better quality with a better fit for a better deal there anyway.