As a troubled year for Lululemon
comes to an end, the company is hitting the reset button on its leadership. Yet even that action is causing headaches for the brand.
Chairman and co-founder Chip Wilson, whose comments on Bloomberg TV
last month caused massive outrage on blogs and social media—he said some women’s bodies “don’t actually work” for Lululemon’s yoga pants—is stepping down from his position.
Meanwhile, the company has named a new CEO, Laurent Potdevin, formerly of Toms Shoes.
Those concurrent announcements, which many news organizations have combined into single headlines, seem to be the source for considerable confusion on social media and elsewhere. Many people are under the impression that Potdevin is Wilson’s immediate successor, when he is actually filling the role that CEO Christine Day will vacate in January. (Over the summer, Day announced her intention to step down
The good news is that Potdevin’s connection to a socially conscious company—Toms donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair it sells—seems to have scored Lululemon some PR points.
However, in addition to public confusion about who’s in what position, Lululemon’s once again being in the headlines seems to have retriggered many observers’ rage at the company. For some, it came out as Twitter jokes:
For others, the outrage was much more pronounced. The blog Politics USA’s headline
about Wilson’s resignation calls him a “woman-hating libertarian,” and the story goes on to say he’s “one of the boys.”
On Facebook, many commenters took a post that consisted of nothing but the phrase “The CEO” and a video about Potdevin
as an invitation to vent about Wilson.
“I hope lululemon realizes that we all come in different sizes! We want to wear a brand that doesn't discriminate body types!” one wrote.
At the other end of the spectrum, another commenter wrote: “This is ridiculous. Pants are only designed for certain body dimensions. If you exceed the yield strength of the material, it will fail. There was no nicer way for this to be said then the way Chip Wilson said it.”
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The aptly titled Barstool Sports blog
put that point of view in the bluntest terms in its angry post about Wilson’s exit. Its headline? “Whiny fatties force Lululemon owner to quit his own company.” (The CEO/chairman confusion appears to have evolved into an ownership question.)
Even with some big changes in the offing, the discourse doesn’t seem to be getting any less heated.