Lululemon's See-Through Pants Recall Is Just The Latest Weird Chapter In Its Bizarre History

Lululemon’s recall of its sought-after yoga pants — because they’re sheer enough to become see-through — isn’t the first weird event in the company’s history.

Lululemon’s story is just one weird chapter after another.

Did you know the company took its name because the founder believed Japanese people wouldn’t be able to pronounce it?

Or that the company once claimed falsely that its pants were made with seaweed?

The pants recall is, in fact, serious business for Lululemon. Luon pants represent 17 per cent of the chain’s entire stock; they’re $98 a pair and revenue growth at the company was already slowing before the recall was announced.

The screw up came a little more than a year after founder Chip Wilson stepped aside to be replaced as CEO Christine Day.

The founder is an Ayn Rand fan and the company takes its values from Atlas Shrugged.

Late in 2011, the company began printing the phrase 'Who is John Galt?' on its shopping bags. Galt, of course, is the star of Rand's 'objectivist' novel, 'Atlas Shrugged,' which argues that the naked pursuit of self-interest should be society's highest ambition. Founder Chip Wilson read the book when he was 18.

Wilson believes the birth control pill and smoking are responsible for high divorce rates — and the existence of Lululemon itself.

Wilson created the name 'Lululemon' because he thinks Japanese people can't say the letter 'L.'

Wilson said he favours using child labour in Third World countries.

Canada's The Tyee reported:

According to those who attended BALLE BC conference, Wilson told the delegates third world children should be allowed to work in factories because it provides them with much-needed wages. They also say he argued that even in Canada there is a place for 12- and 13-year-old street youths 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.

Wilson is one of those people who refers to himself in third person.

Some believe working at Lululemon is like being in a cult.

Douglas Atkin, author of The Culting of Brands, once told Fast Company, 'It's the first time I've heard of anyone almost directly using the techniques of cults and applying them to their business.'

Lululemon store staff are not just being friendly. They're gathering data on you.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that CEO Christine Day doesn't use focus groups. Rather, she spies on customers herself, as does her staff:

… Ms. Day spends hours each week in Lulu stores observing how customers shop, listening to their complaints, and then using the feedback to tweak product and stores.

Lulu also trains its workers to eavesdrop, placing the clothes-folding tables on the sales floor near the fitting rooms rather than in a back room so that workers can overhear complaints.

One customer described the experience this way:

When I buy stuff at Lululemon, they have often asked me where I work out, as well as who my favourite instructors are. This is not just idle talk -- this kind of information is self-consciously gathered by Lululemon sales staff and then reported back to Lululemon HQ every two weeks.

Wilson believes employees should ask their bosses this creepy question about surviving shipwrecks:

'12 people have been shipwrecked on a deserted island. There is one boat that will hold 6 people and if the 6 people work perfectly as team they have a 10% chance of survival. The people left behind will perish. Would you take me and if yes why and if not why not?'

In 2007, Lululemon falsely claimed its clothes were made with seaweed.

Wilson believes that if you get sick, it's your fault.

In his discussion of 'The Secret' on his corporate blog, Wilson argued that illness was mostly a choice. He wrote:

Health attracts health
Sickness attracts sickness

One of the company's corporate mantras is,

Stress is related to 99% of all illness.

Wilson, again:

Greatness is demanding the best of everything and doing what is required to get it. Greatness is demanding friends who demand the best, demanding the best wife or husband and the best job with the best pay. Greatness is demanding the company you work for to make the best products and be uncompromising in its promise to its customers. Greatness is demanding the best out of one's self.

In 2012, Wilson resigned as chief innovation and branding officer.

The company did not say if the move was linked to the string of controversial headlines Wilson had generated. He stayed on as chairman.

His duties were taken by CEO Christine Day (pictured).

Wilson later invested $14 million in a tea company.

The company's see-through pants sunk its stock in March 2013.

When the company announced its Luon pants recall, it took 6 per cent off the stock.

The strategic difficulty is that Lululemon is dependent on a single supplier for its stretchy Luon material.

According to Quartz:

Lululemon relies on a single Taiwanese manufacturer for its Luon fabric. ... Single supplier-reliance ensures Lululemon's manufacturing know-how does not get spread too widely, but also creates risks of bad shipments spoiling sales performance.

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