Lululemon founder slams company’s diversity and inclusion efforts

Lululemon founder slams company’s diversity and inclusion efforts
via Forbes
Ryan General
By Ryan General
January 5, 2024
Chip Wilson, the controversial founder and former CEO of Lululemon, criticized his former company’s pursuit of diversity and inclusion in a recent Forbes interview.
What he’s saying: Taking issue with Lululemon‘s “whole diversity and inclusion thing,” Wilson, 68, argued that the athleisure company is diluting its brand by attempting to cater to a broader audience. He expressed disdain for the appearance of individuals featured in its advertisements, describing them as “unhealthy,” “sickly” and “not inspirational.” 
“They’re trying to become like the Gap, everything to everybody,” Wilson told Forbes. “And I think the definition of a brand is that you’re not everything to everybody… You’ve got to be clear that you don’t want certain customers coming in.”

Past controversies: In 2005, Wilson reportedly suggested using multiple “Ls” in Lululemon’s name to exploit Japanese pronunciation difficulties, which he later denied. In the same year, he reportedly expressed support for child labor and cited cost concerns for not producing pants larger than size 12.
In 2009, Wilson revisited the Japanese pronunciation theme, stating the brand name held no meaningful roots beyond the inclusion of three “Ls.” In 2013, he faced criticism for implying that Lululemon’s pants did not suit certain women’s bodies, attributing issues to factors like thigh rubbing and pressure. These controversial statements contributed to public backlash and ultimately played a role in his departure as CEO in 2013 before leaving the company’s board in 2015.
Post-Lululemon ventures: After exiting Lululemon, Wilson went on to launch technical apparel brand Kit & Ace, which was eventually sold in 2017. He then found success in acquiring Helsinki-based Amer Sports via a partnership with Chinese sporting giant Anta Sports Products. His real estate ventures, particularly through Low Tide Properties, have also proven lucrative. 
Meanwhile, Lululemon’s stock has continued to thrive, up nearly 60% in the past year. Wilson retains an 8% stake in the company, which is currently valued at over $4 billion.
Lululemon responds: In a statement to CNN, Lululemon emphasized that it has transformed into a “very different company” since Wilson left. The brand stated that Wilson’s views do not align with their current values or beliefs, citing progress made through its Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action (IDEA) program.
Reactions: Wilson’s recent comments sparked outrage on social media.
“Starting 2024 with an “Asshole of the Week” Award… This is Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon. He feels that his brand should not cater to everyone, because he doesn’t want CERTAIN customers coming into his stores, because inclusion and diversity are wrong. Racist POS,” one X user wrote.
“Wonder who those certain customers are?” another user questioned. “Chip Wilson’s anti-Asian, sexist and fatphobic.”
“Nothing to see here, just Chip Wilson proving once again that entitled, middle-aged, white men need to STFU more often,” another user noted.
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