On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

UPDATE: Lululemon's founder is still kind of a douche

One of my most frequently googled posts is something I wrote ages ago about Lululemon. The clothing store has a huge cult following amongst affluent yogis and runners, and for mostly good reasons. They do a lot of community-centered programming out of their stores, and their clothes seem to strike a chord with many by being durable, flattering, and fashionable (albeit expensive).

The store ethics center tightly around their founder, Chip Wilson. Chip Wilson is an advocate of Landmark Education (participating and sponsoring employees' participation), and some have accused Landmark of cult-like tendencies (it may have connections with Scientology).

But then, there's this:

Yes, John Galt. On the side of Lululemon's bags. You know John Galt - the famous character from Ayn "Rhymes with Mine" Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged? The conservative manifesto embraced by Objectivists and Tea Partiers everywhere?

True fact: I loved Ayn Rand in college. I missed two meals in order to finish The Fountainhead, and after I finished it I immediately bought a copy for my brother to read and enjoy. (He hasn't read it yet. It's only been, what, 10 years? I'm sure he'll get around to it soon.) Even though my own personal politics no longer preach rational self-interest as the ideal by any means and I find Ayn Rand's writing to be simplistic to the point of being juvenile, I don't have a problem with the politics of the book per se.

But I do have a problem with stores that try to slip political messages past their customers, especially when Lululemon has tried to play it like this is a motto that empowers women to live life to their fullest rather than a political credo. If "The Virtue of Selfishness" is also your motto, as it was Ayn Rand's, then Lululemon is your store!

Personally, albeit seemingly unconnected to John Galt, I think my friend Sarah summed it up best when she said that Lululemon was now in the Brown's Chicken category (along with Lane Bryant, I'd add). Love the store or hate it, the horrifying murder that happened there overshadows all else.


  1. I didn't know about this when I tweeted yesterday that teabaggers would do well to remember that Ayn Rand was also an atheist who supported abortion rights...maybe THAT'S the Ayn Rand Lulu is referencing? (Somehow I doubt it.) WTF, LU?

  2. The big problem I have with LuluLemon is the fact that I can't fit into most of their clothes. I have a few pairs of yoga pants, but have been unable to find a top that zip around my ample bosoms.

    There is nothing empowering about being too fat to wear Lulu. Put that on a bag.

    Also, I read the Fountainhead and didn't get it. Am I the only Wharton grad that thought it was lame? Does this mean that I have a compassionate soul or that I'm too thick to hear the message? (Wait, don't answer that...)

  3. I can't decide if you're right about the murder thing. Obviously HUGE local news so it's interesting to hear your perspective from out of town. On one hand, the murder doesn't seem to reflect on LLMN as a company; it's coincidental. But on the other, I read that the guilty party was shuffled from a store downtown to the Bethesda store for behavioral problems that included suspected theft...so was their business negligence ("Hey, you take her!") at fault in a crime that might have been preventable?

    Either way, I'm a lulu hater so I don't need the extra reason. Not because their stuff doesn't fit, but the attitude of women who wear it makes me want to shove those little spaghetti straps up their asses. I'm empowered! I'm centered! Because I have a tiny ruffle on my overpriced top! vomit.

  4. I bet the founders of many companies are douchebags. There are articles saying things about Steve Jobs. I will say I ran the entire NYC marathon in their run response shorts and I used no lotion, and I experienced NO chafing. Expensive yes, but luckily I had a gift certificate...I will also say many of the employees my local store are super nice and I love their free yoga classes.

  5. From "DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY THAT SCARES YOU" or whatever typical cliches they spout to Who is John Galt? Huh? I'm confused.

    Whatever. I'm still pissed they don't make the Groovy Run shorts anymore.

  6. Great, just what I need, a bunch of rich yoga doing ladies who think this is the 2011 version of The Secret.

    That said, I do own some Lululemon and I'm not really sorry. I got some of their gear for my birthday and, while not worth the exorbitant markups, it's good and I'll keep using it. I also appreciate that their in-store yoga classes are free. However the pants do not make my ass look revolutionary. I get hollered at more in Nike Tempos, for what that is worth.

  7. @Kate: it certainly doesn't reflect on the company in any way, I agree. It's just... something creepy. I know the Brown's Chicken case is only notorious in IL, but it seemed to me like those murders contributed to the decline of the restaurant chain.

    I really hate the fact that Lululemon's clothes work. I hate their prices, I hate their cult following, I hate the perky employees with ponytails who are always so freaking friendly to me, and I hate the attitude like Kate describes. I hate that I share Tam's problem - I look at their adorable skirts that would fit approximately one of my thighs.

  8. I'm middle of the road on this one. I dislike the quote (like you: I loved Rand in college. Then I grew up and realized that there are some seriously FATAL FLAWS IN HER LOGIC! But that's another chat for another time...)

    But I also figure a company has a right to brand themselves however they see fit, and then we choose to do business with them or not. I won't go to Chic-fil-a (or however it's spelled) because they fund anti-gay campaigns. I'm sure they don't care about one little customer, but it makes me feel better to know that none of my money is going to support their crazy cause. I suspect you feel the same way about the Lu. :)

  9. @Beth: I agree in theory, and this is something that I've been giving a lot of thought and will continue to give thought to. I feel like Rand is SO politicized, and it's hard to ignore the political implications of her work. But I feel like their "Who is John Galt?" campaign tries to use only part of Rand's message, and further tries to twist it into something different. I don't think you can really separate one message from the other when it comes to Rand. Trying to spin Ayn Rand into a message of empowerment somehow, in some perverted way, almost bothers me more than companies like Chick-Fil-A or Target donating money to political causes.