The aspirational athletic-wear maker Lululemon, famous for its expensive leggings sported by young urban professionals, is facing vigorous criticism for promoting a yoga workshop billed as an opportunity to “resist capitalism”.
The Canadian-headquartered international company, valued at $45bn, suggested participants will be able to learn how “gender constructs across the world have informed culture and the ways violent colonialism has erased these histories to enforce consumerism”.
Objections to the company’s promotion of the tutorial, due to be hosted by yoga instructor and company brand “ambassador” Rebby Kern later this month on Zoom, center on apparent contradictions between aims of a class teaching people how to “resist capitalism” and Lulelemon’s multi-billion dollar market capitalisation.
Shares in Lululemon, which went public in 2007, have more than doubled since March, to $320 a share, giving it a $45bn valuation. Online sales have soared 157% during the pandemic as millions have stayed home from work and declined to dress in formalwear.
But the “athleisure” manufacturer, which has sold millions of $100-plus leggings, was not banking on a sharp pushback against its “five to watch” promotion of Kern’s “decolonizing gender” workshop.
“Lululemon IS capitalism. It is literally a privately-owned corporation that raked in half a billion dollars in pure profits last year, merely by selling overpriced yoga pants to women willing and able to pay for this luxury. All this begs the question … WUT?” wrote Amy Swearer with the rightwing Heritage Foundation.
Others followed. “Lululemon hosting a workshop to resist capitalism while selling us $180 yoga pants is peak 2020,” wrote Kevin Duffey on Twitter.
Mattea Merta also pitched in: “WHY are you pushing an anti-capitalist Marxist workshop when you ONLY exist because of capitalism?”
Lululemon is no stranger to controversy. In 2013, founder Chip Wilson was forced to resign after saying the company’s signature leggings were not made for women “without a thigh gap”.
Last year, the Guardian revealed that Lululemon sourced some clothing from a factory where Bangladeshi female factory workers claim they were beaten and physically assaulted.
The report came after the brand had launched a partnership with the United Nations Foundation to reduce stress levels and promote the mental health of aid workers.
But young female workers at a factory in Bangladesh making clothing for the label gave detailed accounts of how they struggled to survive on meagre wages and faced physical violence and regular humiliation at the hands of their managers, who called them “whores” and “sluts”.
Lululemon subsequently ordered an investigation. “There are currently no orders planned for this factory, and we will take appropriate action based upon the findings of our investigation,” a spokesperson said at the time.