Lululemon’s lemon’s

lemon“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t work for [the pants] … It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time.” 

That was how the billionaire co-founder of Lululemon, Chip Wilson, responded to complaints about see-through pants and pilling. Predictably, he was attacked for fat-shaming and other anti-woman issues. Well, that is not my issue with Mr. Wilson or Lululemon. 

I have practiced yoga for decades and as its popularity has grown, some studios have become very fashion-conscious. I often see women wearing pants that are too small or the wrong style. That cannot be Mr. Wilson’s fault or Lululemon’s in any way. 

I am a small curvy woman. Even at my thinnest weight – and I have managed to get very thin at times – I don’t wear skinny, stretchy pants. I have always liked Lululemon’s crops, until a few years ago. 

Here’s my issue with Lululemon and I believe the real issue: The pants have always been pricy, but I bought them as did others from one of the first Toronto stores because they fit and wore like iron. Then a few years ago, my loose crop pants, not tight pants, began to pill. In addition, neither the stitching nor the cut were as good as they were originally. The fabric is not as nice. But the pants are not any cheaper. I have the originals – the good pair. 

I have worked covering fashion for years and I sew. I can compare the two pairs point by point and see where the corners have been cut. It is disappointing, especially as so many people really love the brand. 

There are those who defend the company for their support of the yoga community. I call that smart marketing. Others attack the company and Wilson for fat-shaming, which I consider unwarranted. The fact that some pants are not for every “body” is not insulting. The fact is that Lululemon makes pants that pill, and the company has widely-reported service issues in their stores. 

But at the end of the day, women can and should shop elsewhere when they are not happy – I did. 

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Who wants a $100 dollar “lemon” Lulu?

Usually a lemon refers to a car not pricy yoga pants!If you do yoga or take a barre class, you must have heard about Lululemon’s recall of 17 percent of their black yoga pants. It seems the pants were so thin that women who bent over in them ended up over-exposed. Not great for pants sold primarily for yoga and other bendy workouts.
 
The recall led to a blitz of stories. Some were about the pressure some women feel to conform to a “Lululemon” dress code at their gyms and yoga studios.
 
At my workout studio/spa Lululemon is the preferred attire for teachers and students alike. Lululemon has always been smart about courting instructors as Lulu “ambassadors.” It is no accident that most good looking, fit, yoga and Pilate’s teachers wear a lot of Lululemon, although other brands have caught on. Now you will see a little more variety in most studios, but workout wear on instructors and devotees is definitely high end. A few other brands have made inroads but they are also pricy and sleek
 
I understand why teachers and yoga students love Lululemon. It fits and wears well – or it did. I have worn it for years. I bought my first pair of “still crops” in Toronto when the company first opened. At almost $100, they were very expensive for yoga pants. They fit and felt fabulous. I wasn’t concerned with how they made my derrière look. Even though Lulu’s ability to flatter a woman's backside is part of their famed cult appeal, I worked out at an all-women’s gym and never wore them anyplace else. What hooked me is that they felt amazing and had a nice loose feel. And they kept their shape and colour, even after repeated washings.
 
So, I decided they were worth the $100. And after all, a pair would last a long time, at least until a couple of years ago. The last pair of pants I bought looked almost identical to the old ones. But a trained dressmaker and fashion editor eye detected some troubling differences.
 
The front pockets are slightly skimpier, so they don’t fit as well. The top stitching is not as fine or as flat on the new pair. The back seam – the one that makes you butt look so good – is not as deep or well-shaped, and the stitching is narrower. The waist cord has been replaced by elastic which looks and feels tacky. And the fabric is different; it pills.
 
Yet according to Businessweek.com “in the past five the company (Lululemon) has tripled its annual revenue, expanding from 70 stores…” This proves that their marketing works. And Lululemon markets heavily, by reaching out to instructors, with free yoga lessons and other image-building stunts. I and other members at my private spa/workout club were disturbed to find out that our favourite yoga class was one of Lulu’s free community classes. I found this out accidentally when I was looking for new pants. (I still haven’t bought any as I hope to find some I really like.)
 
Carolyn Beauchesne, who runs the popular blog Lululemon Addict, has also noticed the decline in the quality of some Lulu items. She said in a www.businessweek.com interview, “that about two years ago she noticed the company’s clothing felt thinner and pilled more quickly.” That is about the same time I noticed issues, give or take a year.
 
When I checked Beauchesne’s most recent blog, she said “I've been talking about bad quality for at least two years, and now, when Lululemon has fixed their luon (luon is the stretch fabric they use) recipe so the quality is actually improving with that fabric, they get hit with a charge of bad quality.”  I hope she is right. I am willing to bet she is, as this woman lives for Lululemon. I hope they will address some of their other  construction issues.
 
I understand Beauchesne’s Lulu loyalty and that of women who love the brand. Feeling good in your workout clothes helps you to feel good about your body and being fit. But when you spend $100 for a pair of yoga pants, you don’t want a $100 lemon. You want pants that make you look and feel fabulous.
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