• Fri, Feb 25 2011

Lululemon, Spoofed: Are Your Favorite Yoga Pants Evil?

Lululemon's reusable store bags, left, get a tongue-in-cheek makeover, right.

Some Blisstree staffers are obsessed with lululemon athletica, the ubiquitous fitness gear brand geared towards the fashionable (and butt-conscious) yogi. Our brand-love has more to do with the way we look in their pants (and logo) than lululemon’s company ethos, and one of our contributors was perfectly willing to fess up to the un-yogi-like reasons for her out-of-hand collection of their gear:

Today, wearing lululemon has become something of a status symbol – an icon of yoga culture. And as shallow as it may sound, I feel hip and healthy wearing the brand. I may not be able to afford the latest off-the-runway handbag, but at least I can tote around a lulu bag with my yoga mat, publicly demonstrating my fashionable and active lifestyle. (Never mind that my lulu fetish seems to run counter to the true point of yoga, spiritually bettering one’s self through meditation.) It may be lame, but lulu clothes make me feel good, and I really do think they make my body look better. Perhaps that’s why the company’s popularity has exploded.

But some people say that our brand-love is more than a little shallow. Sparked by an ironic spoof on their reusable bags, above, lululemon is getting slammed on yoga sites like Elephant Journal (something pointed out to us by Blisstree commenter Ellie — thanks Ellie!). According to the karmically-correct, the company is a “yoga poser,” “sell-out,” and is quickly losing <3s due to their blatant consumerism and failure to use eco-friendly materials. (We’re having flashbacks to Liz Lemon’s major guilt trip after discovering that her favorite “Brooklyn Unlimited” jeans aren’t locally-made or family-owned, but fathered by the evil corporation Halliburton.)
The spoof replaces phrases like “BREATHE DEEPLY” with “BRAND LOYALTY,” swapping out the silhouette of a woman in half-moon pose for one of a pole-dancer (“Your worth as a woman depends on people looking at your butt,” says the accompanying message, instead of lululemon’s original: “Friends are worth more than money”). The hypocrisy of making millions on yoga gear isn’t lost on us, but we’d argue that all clothing companies are ultimately out there to make money (even the ones tailored towards yogis). But accusations that lululemon emphasizes superficial measures of yoga-devotion and fails to use their profits in an environmentally-sound business model are harder to negotiate.

“Since its inception, Lululemon has posted consistently positive profits, even in a weak economy. And yet they’ve never manufactured using eco-responsible materials and practices, or in the USA—their company’s behavior doesn’t seem to match that of their target audience’s practice of ahimsa or mindfulness,” points out Elise Ertel. Er, yeah. Her argument makes a lot of sense. It used to be that wearing eco-friendly clothing used to mean looking like a hemp-loving hippie, but these days, plenty of companies have found ways to make high-tech, fashionable fitness gear that’s good for the earth (Patagonia is a prime example), so why can’t lululemon catch up?

(For more responses to the issue, check out Elise Ertel’s critique, FiredForNow’s explanation of her dislike for the brand, or this summary of the lululemon spoof.)

And what about the company’s body-conscious messages about fitness? We didn’t quite see lululemon’s fault on this count, but when we clicked on the lululemon spoof to find out more about the messages on the bag, we were led to posts on lululemon’s blog about theer pants making butts look good, and an article about how lululemon only caters to “teeny-weeny yoginis.” Whether their message is actually subtle or we’ve just become so trained to think that superficial messages like these are normal, we’re not sure, but the brand certainly doesn’t seem to take students of all shapes and sizes to quite the same degree as our yoga studios.

Instead of supporting a company based on yoga-derived, do-gooder philosophies, are we just doling out our dollars to another monstrous corporation? Is lululemon duping their customers with a feel-good brand, when they’re really just feeding into unhealthy notions of fitness and body image, and ruining the environment with their manufacturing? Tell us whether you think that lululemon is evil in the comments section, below:

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