Lululemon Shoppers Threaten Boycott Over Founder's Controversial Comments

His most recent remarks have stirred up significant outrage on social media.

A company is often only as strong as its leadership, and Lululemon's founder may be weakening the brand's standing with consumers. Billionaire Chip Wilson founded the athletic apparel company back in 1998 before stepping down as chairman in 2013. But despite his departure a decade ago, Wilson is still speaking out about the yoga-inspired fashion brand he built. And now his controversial comments from a new Forbes interview have some Lululemon shoppers threatening to boycott.

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When asked about the modern-day Lululemon and its new leadership, Wilson didn't hold back on how he feels about the company's "whole diversity and inclusion thing."

"They're trying to become like the Gap, everything to everybody," he told Forbes. "And 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."

The Lululemon founder also shared his distaste for the appearance of the people in the brand's recent ads, saying they look "unhealthy," "sickly," and "not inspirational," according to the magazine.

As a response to Wilson's remarks, the company seems committed to distancing itself from its former chairman. In a statement recently provided to Fortune, a Lululemon spokesperson said that Wilson "does not speak for Lululemon, and his comments do not reflect our company views or beliefs."

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

RELATED: Lululemon CEO Defends Firing Employees Who Confronted Shoplifters.

Despite this, Wilson's criticism against inclusivity in his Forbes interview has stirred up significant outrage against the brand on social media. "I knew Lululemon gave me a nasty vibe," one person wrote in a Jan. 4 X post. Another X user wrote, "Just cleared my Lululemon cart so fast he is crazy."

Some Lululemon shoppers are even threatening to boycott the company over its founder's controversial comments. "Yeah I think Lululemon is done getting my money," one customer recently wrote on X. Another posted on Jan. 4, "Boycott @lululemon. If Chip Wilson only wants certain customers coming in, cool, he can have them."

But this isn't the first time Wilson has landed himself in hot water over controversial comments. In fact, the Lululemon founder stepped down in 2013 amid backlash for similar reasons. To find out more about his other contentious remarks, read on.

RELATED: Costco Sells Super Cheap Lululemon Dupes—Are They Just as Good?

1
He blamed product problems on the body types of some customers.

Pills on the black pullover fabric
iStock

Right before his departure in 2013, Wilson also made disparaging comments about the company's inclusivity. In response to customer complaints regarding problems of pilling and sheerness with Lululemon's pants at the time, he suggested that they aren't made for everyone.

"There has always been pilling. The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don't work or they'll wear a purse that doesn't work or, quite frankly, some women's bodies just don't work for it," Wilson told Bloomberg TV in 2023, per CBC. "It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there … over a period of time, and how much they use it."

2
He defended harsh working conditions.

Hands of young girl using sewing machine in workshop.
iStock

But Wilson's controversial comments extend beyond the brand's inclusivity. During the 2005 Business Alliance of Local Living Economies conference in Vancouver, the Lululemon founder seemingly championed harsh working conditions and indicated that people from China prefer working over 40 hours a week.

"In Canada for instance, 99 percent of our factory workers are Chinese women sewers. If you were to work them eight-hour days, they will be mad at you. If you only work them five days a week for only eight hours, they'll say, 'What are you doing? I don't want to work for you,'" he said, per the Elephant Journal. "If you do only work them that much, they walk out of their shift at four o'clock and walk across the street to another factory and work another six hours."

3
He joked about Japanese people not being able to pronounce Lululemon.

A Lululemon storefront in a shopping center
Shutterstock / lentamart

That same year, Wilson also made another problematic remark directed towards the Asian community. He told Canada's National Post Business Magazine that he named the brand Lululemon as a marketing ploy because it is hard for Japanese people to pronounce.

"L is not in [the Japanese] vocabulary. It's a tough pronunciation for them. So I thought, next time I have a company, I'll make a name with three Ls and see if I can get three times the money," Wilson said, per NextShark. "It's kind of exotic for them. I was playing with Ls and I came up with Lululemon. It's funny to watch them try to say it."

4
He said birth control contributed to breast cancer.

birth control pills on wooden background, close up .
iStock

In a bizarre, now-deleted blog post on Lululemon's website, Wilson shared concerning comments about birth control as well, according to The Atlantic.

"Breast cancer also came into prominence in the 1990's," he wrote. "I suggest this was due to the number of cigarette-smoking Power Women who were on the pill (initial concentrations of hormones in the pill were very high) and taking on the stress previously left to men in the working world."

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Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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