Lululemon Employees of Color Respond to Founder’s Comments on DEI


  • Lululemon founder Chip Wilson criticized the company’s ‘whole diversity and inclusion thing.’
  • Former Lululemon employees of color said Wilson’s remarks and the company’s response failed its mission of increasing diversity.
  • Lululemon has been plagued with diversity issues, and former employees are calling for change.

Lululemon’s employees of color are making their voices heard after the company’s founder blasted its diversity initiatives.

In January, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson told Forbes that he doesn’t agree with the company’s “whole diversity and inclusion thing.”

“They’re trying to become like the Gap, everything to everybody,” Wilson said. “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,” he added.

Current and former employees of color at the athletic-wear company are speaking out against Wilson’s remarks, as well as what they say is a culture of racial insensitivity at Lululemon.

“The company has failed all Black employees and employees of color,” Michael Collins, a former Lululemon store manager, told Business Insider. “Nothing has changed since.”

Plagued by diversity issues

Some current and former employees said they’re not too surprised Wilson criticized Lululemon’s diversity efforts given his track record of making controversial statements.

In the years after he founded the company, Wilson said he chose the name “Lululemon” because he thought it would be “funny to watch” Japanese people try to pronounce the “L” sounds.

He has also blamed women’s bodies after Lululemon received complaints that its yoga pants were too sheer, and said he believes children in Third World countries should be able to work in factories for wages, calling it “single easiest way to spread wealth around the world.”

Wilson left the company in 2015 but remains the company’s largest individual shareholder.

After Wilson’s most recent comments about diversity, the company disavowed his viewpoints.

“Chip Wilson does not speak for Lululemon, and his comments do not reflect our company views or beliefs,” a spokesperson told the Business of Fashion in a statement.

“Chip has not been involved with the company since his resignation from the board in 2015 and we are a very different company today,” they added.

But even after Wilson’s departure, Lululemon employees have spoken out against the company’s culture, which they described as exemplifying “privileged white wellness,” as previously reported by Business Insider in 2021.

In November, Business of Fashion reported that Lululemon failed to live up to its mission of diversity and inclusion, and that Black employees were passed over for promotions, reprimanded, and fired.

Lululemon did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Employees are calling for change

Collins, the former store manager, said the company’s response to Wilson’s remarks was a “low blow” to people who work for Lululemon.

“It’s a slap in the face to everyone of color, because that’s a performative answer,” Collins said. “If you’re going to be proactive and change, you have to have a clean slate. You have to rehire and clean up the mess, which has been going on for so long.”

Miya Dotson, a former manager in Lululemon’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action team, said the company’s “non-acknowledgment of the harm they’ve caused members of the Black community and other marginalized groups is outrageous.”

One current employee, who asked to remain anonymous because of the company’s strict media policy, told Business Insider he believes Lululemon is making an effort to improve its diversity and inclusion, citing the diverse makeup of the store he works at and the sensitivity training employees must go through.

The employee, who identifies as Black and gay, said Wilson’s statement “totally goes against what I am as a person and what I believe in,” and said the company should distance itself from Wilson altogether. He pointed out that Wilson’s criticism actually implies that Lululemon is trying to move toward increased diversity.

Dotson said Lululemon needs to change its leadership and address its issues head-on.

“The longer they try to put off the public image, the more they’re going to rot from the inside in terms of the fear and the values they’re disintegrating,” Dotson said.


Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply