Say No to Lululemon! ~ Sara Jean Deegan

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Who is John Galt?” The question is the opening line of Atlas Shruggedthe novel by Ayn Rand that was published in 1957.

Rand’s philosophy promotes the idea of individuals living for their self-interest and free enterprise. In its blog, the company said that Dennis J. Wilson, Lululemon’s founder and chairman, first read Atlas Shrugged when he was 18 years old.

“Only later, looking back, did he realize the impact the book’s ideology had on his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness (Lululemon’s company vision),” the blog post stated. “Our bags are visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity. We all have a John Galt inside of us, cheering us on. How are we going to live lives we love?”

Lululemon recently ended a campaign offering free yoga outfits to the first 40 people who lined up outside the door and stripped naked. Everyone knows Lululemon is over priced yoga wear.

Maybe giving away all this free spiritual advice is why the clothes cost so much. One of the things I love about yoga is that it takes me away from the commercial world. Remember one of those lines from the lulu-shopping bag? “That which matters most should never give way to that which matters least.”

Chip Wilson, CEO and founder of Lululemon apparel, told the delegates of recent BALLE BC conference, he defends the practice of child forced labor and sweatshops. Wilson told the delegates that third world children should be allowed to work in factories because it provides them with much needed wages.

Does this sound like the values of yoga to you? It may. That’s your choice. Carol Horton, former political science professor and policy analyst, recently reincarnated in this life as a yoga teacher and blogger, Author of Race and the Making of American Liberalism, wrote: “But I strongly suspect that the overwhelming majority of Lululemon customers and ambassadors haven’t thought into the politics of the company they’re supporting. But we have an obligation to do so. We’re in the middle of a crisis that turns on the question of whether we need to reform or let the forces of unrestrained corporate capitalism run completely unchecked…”

Apparently it all comes down to profit. With net revenues of $239 million for 2011, six times the level reached in 2004, Chip has more than 100 outlets and $340 million in annual revenue. “Ultimately, Lululemon was formed because female education levels, breast cancer, yoga/athletics and the desire to dress feminine came together all at one time,” Chip said.

North American name brands had intense appeal in Japan, and consumers there paid a premium for authentic product. In his blog, he wrote: “By including an “L” in the name it was thought the Japanese consumer would find the name innately North American and authentic…”

To create a North American sounding brand with the letter “L” because the sound does not exist in Japanese phonetics, he challenged himself to come up with a name that ha three “L’s” for his new company vision. According to a National Post Business Magazine article, which had honoured him for his product innovation, Wilson said that: “It’s funny to watch them try and say it.”

In the 2004 May-June issue of Yoga Journal, when Lululemon started outsourcing to China, the company placed a controversial ad in Yoga Journal magazine showing a fake newspaper article with adults dressed in diapers, with bonnets and pacifiers, at sewing machines.

Attached to the article is a post-it note from Chip asking, “How did this get out?”

The ad was meant to elicit reactions on the global travesty of child labor in an ironic way.

“We’re also sensitive of society’s tendency to villianize corporations, and as we grow, we wanted to be proactive and deter individuals and the media from condemning an innocent, ethical company as unethical,” Wilson said in a press release.

You can find Lululemon’s response to this controversial advertising campaign here.

Seventy percent of their clothing is manufactured in third-world countries. Including factories in China, Taiwan, South Korea, South America, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

 The Lululemon website explains, “Global economic forces…have shifted manufacturing to more cost-attractive locations and resulted in closures of some domestic factories.”

Their stated mission is: “To elevate the world from mediocrity to a place of greatness.”

I wonder if the children and adults working in the Thai and Vietnamese factories are rising above their own mediocrity?

Wilson reportedly argued that even in Canada there is a place for 12 and 13-year-olds to find work in local factories as an alternative to collecting handouts: “I look at it the same way the WTO does it, and that is that the single easiest way to spread wealth around the world is to have poor countries pull themselves out of poverty,” Wilson told The Tyee.

BALLE BC executive director Penny Scott was at the speech in January. “He was really raising a grey area, and didn’t address the other issues, like where these kids are living, what they’re being paid, if they’re going to school, if they’re being taken care of in those other ways,” Scott said.

“Ninety-five per cent of the factories I’ve seen in the Orient are far better than ones in North America,” Wilson said at the Business Alliance of Local Living Economies conference in Vancouver in 2005. “In China, many people come from the western provinces and their goal is to work seven days a week 16 hours a day, because in five years they want to have a pile of money to go home with and start a business.”

Wilson sees a similar situation in Canada. “In Canada for instance, 99 percent of our factory workers are Chinese women sewers. If you were to work them eight-hour days, they will be mad at you. If you only work them five days a week for only eight hours, they’ll say, ‘What are you doing? I don’t want to work for you.’ If you do only work them that much, they walk out of their shift at four o’clock and walk across the street to another factory and work another six hours. This is in Vancouver, in Canada.” Not everyone believes Wilson is qualified to judge the labor standards of another country. 

“The question is, Chip, how do you know that? Show me the money. Are you auditing those factories? Have you seen those payroll stubs? What are their overtime wages? If he’s suggesting that overtime or inaccurately paid wages are not an issue in offshore factories, then he’s walking through them with his eyes closed,” Denise Taschereau, manager of the social and environmental responsibility at the Mountain Equipment Co-op, said that Chip demonstrated little understanding of the issues at the BALLE BC conference.

Miriam Palacios, BC program coordinator for Oxfam Canada, reportedly claimed: “Just because the factories look modern on the inside does not mean the workers inside are being treated fairly—being paid a living wage, or are provided with health care or an education.”

In 2010, employees had filed an amended complaint, where they specify that the possible case encompass 1,400 current/former Lululemon employees who worked at least two overtime hours per week and did not receive pay.

A lawsuit filed against Lululemon in 2010 alleged that Lululemon had compelled employees to watch Landmark motivational movies at home and to attend classes—all without compensation. The damages may top five million dollars.

In a scandal in Toronto, a mother, Norma Columbus, and her 17-year-old daughter, Heather, found the message after they washed the reusable bag. Its exterior began to peel off and underneath a layer of cheeky quotes is a second note about aerobic exercise resulting in a similar high as sex or drugs.

It said: “Some brief or quick incidences when our minds are clear to be creative are when drunk or stoned…just after an orgasm.” And: “There is a little difference between addicts and fanatic athletes. Both are continually searching for a way to remain in a creative state.” A company spoke person said the message isn’t a joke although it wasn’t meant to be viewed by the public.

But the question is does our ethical obligation outweigh the cost of dressing in Lululemon? Recently I read on their bag: “Nature wants us to be mediocre because we have a greater chance to survive and reproduce. Mediocrity is as close to the bottom as it is to the top, and will give you a lousy life.”

Greatness should not be sought at the expense of our humanity and integrity. I think it is a wild misinterpretation of life that we must be reaching in order to achieve some level of “greatness,” expansion and reward; we are whole—we do not need fear Lulu-mediocrity and we do not need Lulu pants to fill our void.

Either Wilson should remove these words from his company website, or begin living up to the same level of greatness (and lack of mediocrity) that he prescribes.



Chip. “The Name Lululemon Athletica.” Lululemon Athletica. March 30, 2009. Feb. 2012.

“Controversial Message Uncovered in Lululemon Bags.” CTV News. April 16, 2008. Feb.2012.

Deveau, Scott. “Yoga Mogul Has Critics in a Knot: Chip Wilson’s provocative words on child labor and garment worker put Lululemon under scrutiny.” The Tyee. Feb. 2005. Feb.2012.

Horton, Carol. “Shopping Right (Wing): Lululemon’s Political Values.” Elephant Journal. Nov 20, 2011. Feb. 2012.

Jessie. “Lululemon: Child Labor and Advertising.” Lululemon Athletica. Feb. 2012.

Lawrence, Stewart. “Murder at Lululemon: Yoga’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’ Huffington Post. Nov 09, 2011. Feb. 2012.

Tabakman, Mark. “Taking Exercise Classes and Watching Inspirational Videos in Working Time? FLSA Collective Action Hits Lululemon Athletica.” Fox Rothschild LLP Attorneys at Law. Sept. 27, 2010. Feb. 2012.

“Why I Dislike Lululemon More Than Ever: Fired For Now Blog.” March 31, 2009. Feb. 2012.

Sara Jean Deegan lives in southern California, and when she’s not practicing or teaching yoga, she can be found writing poems or playing her guitar, and her vegan tiger striped pit bull-lab is her best friend. You can find more writing and fun yoga sequences on her blog:


Editor: Mel Squarey



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anonymous Oct 26, 2015 10:52pm

OMG!! SSooo true, white sweatshop clothing just connects with me so much more than those dark 3rd world places, Those poor African, Indian or Asian children leave such a negative impression on the clothing that lingers for soooo long, why do they need to work in factories anyways, don't they have like sticks or something to collect?! .

anonymous Jul 23, 2014 4:56pm

the one pair of lulu pants i have fit me and move with me during my practice better than any other pair i've come across. i would love suggestions on amazing pants from a better company from you all!

anonymous Jan 4, 2014 8:53pm

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anonymous Jul 4, 2013 2:05am

Thanks Sara Jean for this article, it consolidates a lot of what I've already heard. As someone who doesn't feel comfortable in tight yoga pants and sports tops, I decided to start my own yoga clothing line! It's a very lean startup and sourcing well made, organic clothing suitable for yoga and made in 'non sweatshop' manufacturing environment has been difficult but certainly possible – If I can, on my limited budget, then why can't the likes of Lululemon – It's obvious isn't it! I hope in the coming months to start manufacturing locally (in Ireland) so if anyone would like to offer opinions or support I'd be delighted to receive them.

anonymous Jan 5, 2013 6:12am

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anonymous Jun 5, 2012 10:51am

Any reference for your statement that "Wilson told the delegates that third world children should be allowed to work in factories because it provides them with much needed wages," or were you there? If you were there, can we get a quote?

    anonymous May 29, 2014 10:27am

    I provide links to the sources of the quotes at the bottom…

    anonymous Jul 30, 2014 4:16pm

    It's very complicated. In India there are regions that if the children don't work they don't eat. So to transition to a better society and work ethic as a whole on the planet we first have to look at specifics of any one location. Having humane work conditions AND a way out through education to move the children away from relying on labor is the goal. End all child labor without a back up plan is not going to solve the problem.

anonymous May 26, 2012 9:13am

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anonymous May 25, 2012 10:17am

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anonymous May 24, 2012 4:03am

Well you know what they say…..Absolute power corrupts absolutely…So whenever a company goes BIG or a person they are subject to all these snares……those are just the facts of life….

Now, I think we can as conscious people or rather should I say half sleepy people becoming more conscious become more aware of our choices…..and our actions….and seek not just to buy what seems to be advertised the most but other brands too.

Sort of reminds me of the time I was painting my house. I told my very nice trade guy that I wanted to paint the walls using Benjamin Moore. They are the BEST, I said with strong determination.

He paused and said, You only think they are the best because they advertise the most.

And guess what? This is soooooooooooooooooo true.

So your article points out the power of marketing…and all that gets done in and out of it…and what they do to stay that way. Sort of makes you appreciate ma and pap corner store marketing…

anonymous May 23, 2012 11:24pm

Nice comments. Total truth about Mac and chinese labor 🙁
My intention is not to judge anyone for wearing this product–I own some lulu clothes. But it is to spread the awareness that we don’t need to support a corporation that is claiming to extol virtues of yoga, and yet at the very root of it, is incongruent to humanitarian and Eco friendly goals. Hopefully this article will encourage the consumer to support all the other local and Eco friendly yoga wear that is available on the market, and not at the cost of our souls.

anonymous May 23, 2012 3:28pm

The problem is he is talking about greatness and mediocrity at the level of the mind there is nothing great about trying to "achieve" greatness through prescribed effort, greatness is a byproduct of something else. Gandhi didn't strive to live in greatness and leave mediocrity behind. He was a seeker and proponent of Truth. He was spiritually rooted in the higher Truths. He was great because he lived His life with no differentiation and without hate, judgement nor anything prescribed outside of himself. He did not attend seminars filled with jargon and "goals" He was a student of Kriya yoga and mastered the breath and the yoga of transcending the senses. Like Gandhi all the great ones transcended the world and it's "teachings" such as Landmark and dove into the greater Truths which is what the aim of yoga is and they became great as a result of living from this foundation of Truth which is Love, not manufactured teachings on a DVD set. Dr. King, Jesusm Mother Theresa so many others achieved greatness from only One Source. What Lululemon has done is plastered a manufactured "wisdom" that is based on teachings at the level of mind not transcendent of it. They had taken Landmark teachings as one example and plastered them across their business model their clothing and their belief system and marketed it as Yoga philosophy which it is not in it's essence even if it carries some of the same messages. Therefore it will never achieve greatness. What we resist persists. There is no reason to fight against them nor judge them, some of the quotes above seem even though well intentioned cherry picked to prove a point, true as it may be, however the only thing that can happen in the long run of a company that is based on manufactured truths not rooted in realized Truths is that it will eventually settle into mediocrity.

anonymous May 23, 2012 2:19pm

Same with Apple an American Company making billions but manufacturing in Chinese labor camps.
It was Bikram with his 41 Rolls-Royces that said "when in the west do as the westerners do".

    anonymous Jul 3, 2013 10:01am

    Apple does inspect its factories thoroughly, and is making gestures toward manufacturing in the US, and does make (incredibly weak) attempts to "green" its products. So there's something there. Not seeing much sign of eco-responsibility from Lululemon, let along fair labor–but happy to hear otherwise if folks have new info.

    Let's walk our talk, yogis! ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.

    anonymous May 29, 2014 10:26am

    yoga dude, do two wrongs make a right? That would make the whole world blind. Its sad to see how willing you are to accept corruption in the world…and justify it.

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anonymous May 22, 2012 3:11pm

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Sara Jean Deegan

Sara Jean Deegan lives in southern California. When she’s not practicing or teaching yoga, she can be found writing poems or playing her guitar, and her vegan tiger striped pit bull-lab is her best friend. You can find more writing and fun yoga sequences on her blog: