When life throws you Lululemons, Chip Wilson will try really, really hard to make Lululemonade. Unfortunately for him, it still tastes like garbage. Last week, the Internet whipped itself into a frenzy over an interview Wilson, founder of the company and self-made Canadian billionaire, gave with Bloomberg. The crux of the convo was this: It’s not me; it’s you.
Lululemon, whose yoga pants cost nearly as much as your favorite pair of jeans, has gotten into hot water over the last year for quality control issues. Back in March, the company recalled 17% of its yoga pants on account of excessive sheerness (read: accidental flashings and inappropriate downward dogs), reportedly costing them over $20 million dollars.
More recently, their gear has been criticized for excessive pilling, prompting the aforementioned interview where Wilson outed himself as a heartless, patriarchal inner-thigh-fat hater. Of their pants, Wilson explained: “They don’t work for some women’s bodies. It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, and how they much they use it.”
The comment, which Wilson delivered with an irritating frankness and strong sense of corporate delusion, has caused such an uproar he was forced to release an apologetic video this week, filmed on a white backdrop like an eHarmony commercial. Now, call me cynical, but these sorts of reactive PR stunts are never genuine, but simply a blatant effort to spare a company monetary losses on account of loose tongues. It’s due diligence. That’s all. Like the pants, it’s all a little too transparent, and it’s yet to be seen if buyers will bite Wilson’s bait, or if he and his Lemon will be forced to eat crow (pose).
In it, Wilson goes on to say “I’m sad” this and “I’m sad” that, but he never comes out and says, “Yo, that whole thing about your fat thighs being the problem, it’s not true. We’ll work to fix our expensive, reportedly top-of-the-line product. It’s not you; it’s us.” Instead, what he’s really doing is a non-apology apology, trying to weakly save face while not addressing the real issue. That he, Chip Wilson, was wrong.
Adding insult to sheer injury, Lululemon decided to re-release their recalled pants. The company has dubbed the reinforced bottoms, “Second Chance Pant,” and they’re accompanied by a hangtag that reads: “This is what celebrating failure looks like!” Except failure will still cost you the exact same original $92 bucks. No one likes an over-priced, patch-work, hand-me-down from a company clearly unable to cop to their mistakes.
The problem here is a lacking in continuity between price and quality. If you pay $10 for a pair of yoga pants, maybe you’re a little more forgiving when you discover you’ve been walking down the street with your cheeks on display. But, as a company, if you’re selling your products at a premium, you better do some premium R&D, ensuring that you’ve created the best product out there, not just slinging overpriced lemons and then offending your customer base when they complain.