Inside Lululemon's Crazy Cult-Like Culture

By Jake Schroeder
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Most yoga classes these days offer more than a soothing, sweaty exercise experience to harness the power of your body and mind. They give you the chance to show off all your favorite Lululemon leggings!

But then, would you still wear them if you knew the brand was built on freakishly weird values? Good question. Here's the thing: Not only is Lululemon founder Chip Wilson a fan of child labor, but he also supports anti-birth control and pro-cult indoctrination philosophies. Not convinced? Read on to take a sneak peek inside Lululemon's crazy cult-like culture.

Lululemon Is Based on Atlas Shrugged

Fun fact: Lululemon's entire ethos is based on Ayn Rand's classic book Atlas Shrugged. As a matter of fact, the yoga-centric company began posting the catchphrase "Who is John Galt?" on all of their shopping bags in 2011. For the uninitiated, it represents founder Chip Wilson's nod to his favorite 1957 book.

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Photo Courtesy: Eflon/Flickr

What makes this so creepy is that the novel is all about overhauling the government while only keeping your own self-interest in mind. It gets worse: Wilson even added the controversial novel to his company's mandatory reading list to "elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness!"

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Lululemon Founder Supports Child Labor

Apparently, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson supports child labor. Yes, you read that right. According to his own words in his aptly named book, Little Black Stretchy Pants, Wilson is actually pro-child labor because "working young is excellent training for life."

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To further explain, Wilson continues: "In North America, I noticed that there were some kids not made for school, who dropped out with nowhere to go," as opposed to kids in Asia, who "learned a trade and contributed to their family. It was work or starve. I liked the working alternative." At least, he's made his own kids work too!

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Lululemon Founder Body-Shamed Women

In this modern world, would you be surprised to hear that Wilson’s pricey athleisure company is not a "one-size-fits-all" type of deal? In fact, he had no problem telling media outlet Bloomberg "some women's bodies just don't actually work" with his brand's exclusive and expensive leggings.

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So, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that most of his employees are super skinny as well. As if that's not already a huge slap in the face to women of different sizes, Wilson begs for sympathy in his book: "My comments were the antithesis of...everything the women of Lululemon and I had built."

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Lululemon Founder Blames Cigarettes and Birth Control for Divorce

News flash: The Lululemon founder once blamed cigarettes and birth control for high divorce rates. If you don't believe it, one of Chip Wilson's 2009 blog posts claimed that "women’s lives changed immediately [after the pill]. ... Men did not know how to relate to the new female." According to Wilson, the result was "the era of divorces."

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He also ranted that so-called "Power Women" had taken over the world by going to "3 martini lunches...because this is what their 'successful' fathers did." The weirdest part is that he founded Lululemon to combat this way of life. After all, you can’t make a powerful business statement while you’re wearing a pair of yoga pants.

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Lululemon Once Claimed Pants Were Made of Seaweed

If things weren't already weird enough for you, Lululemon once claimed its pants were made of seaweed. Not only was this a blatant lie, but the company tried to convince consumers that this made wearing the pants healthy. The marketing team even put this unsubstantiated claim on the tags, which is totally against the law to do.

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If you actually fell for the whole Vitasea leggings gimmick, sorry, but you've been sadly fooled. No, the pants don't relieve stress, reduce inflammation or detoxify your body. That's why Lululemon was forced to take back the claims that were based on literally zero scientific evidence. Thank goodness for Canada's Competition Bureau!

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Lululemon Refuses to Make Plus-Size Clothing

It’s the simple truth that wearing a size that doesn’t fall within the most common size ranges makes it more challenging to find appealing clothes that fit well and look great. It certainly doesn’t help that companies like Lululemon refuse to make clothes that fit people of all sizes. If you're wondering why, Wilson has a simple answer for you: It just costs too much to invest in that many sizes.

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For those who are scratching their heads, allow a former interview Wilson did with the Calgary Herald to refresh your memory. In it, he revealed that it takes about 30% more stretchy fabric to make plus-size clothing. He elaborated, "It's a money loser, for sure. I understand their plight, but it's tough." How rude.

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Lululemon Staff Members Are Called Educators

It’s pretty easy to see that Lululemon specializes in athletic clothes, not education. Despite this fact, the company insists that its staff members be called "educators." Why? When they're trying to sell you a $100 pair of yoga pants, they're actually trying to educate you on a whole new lifestyle.

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If you think this is a coincidence, you would be mistaken. Surprisingly, Lululemon has put a bunch of money, effort and time into educating their staff members on everything from spin classes to paleo diets. Don't be surprised if you find yourself signed up for a gym by the time you leave the store.

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Lululemon Educators Are Super Cliquey

Lululemon retail stores don’t exactly give off the friendliest vibe. The company has specifically been accused of only acting welcoming toward its target customers, which are a very specific group of people who look and act a certain way. As a matter of fact, most of the store’s ads target the extremely wealthy and health-obsessed upper echelons of society.

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You’re not alone in your irritation. More than a few people have pointed out the brand’s cult-like preferences in terms of customers and employees. Founder Wilson has received tons of backlash for saying people of certain sizes and races shouldn't buy his products.

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Lululemon's Ideal Customer Is Someone Named "Ocean"

Apparently, Lululemon's ideal customer is someone named "Ocean." If you're wondering who Ocean really is, you're not alone. According to an explosive tell-all by journalist Mary Mann, her former Lululemon coworkers explained to her that "Ocean is our ideal customer. She does yoga every day, makes $100,000 a year and dates a triathlete named Mountain."

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The concept is serious for the company. Lululemon managers teach their educators about Ocean during their training. In fact, Mann’s ex-coworker revealed, "Mary, we all want to be Ocean. That's why we work here." If that's not brainwashing, we don't know what is!

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Lululemon’s Name Makes Fun of Japanese Accents

Imagine learning that founder Chip Wilson actually named the company Lululemon to make fun of Japanese people, particularly their accents. Pretty offensive, right? Incredibly, Wilson told National Post Business Magazine in Canada that he called the company Lululemon because "it's funny to watch them try and say it," in reference to Japanese pronunciation.

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It’s not clear why Japanese pronunciation was ever part of his decision making process, although Wilson did pen the following in 2009: "It was thought that a Japanese marketing firm would not try to create a North American sounding brand with the letter ‘L’ because the sound does not exist in Japanese phonetics." For those who are still confused, the company's name, "Lululemon," is basically meaningless.

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Lululemon Workers Feel Like They're in a Cult

After reading this far, is it really shocking to learn that some Lululemon workers feel like they're in a cult? Probably not. From assigning mandatory book lists to requiring insanely monitored workouts, the company dictates far too many aspects of employees’ lives and works hard to promote a culture of "sameness" among its team.

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In fact, Culting of Brands author Douglas Atkin told the magazine 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." Plus, Lululemon employees are encouraged to attend a weird, cult-like seminar at the Landmark Forum as well.

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Lululemon Educators Are Trained to Eavesdrop on You

According to The Wall Street Journal, Lululemon CEO Christine Day prefers her staff to spy on customers instead of paying for expensive focus groups to gather information. Shockingly, Day even wanders around Lululemon outlets herself to overhear what customers complain about so she can use that information to change up the company’s products.

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Your chance of running into her is slim, of course, but Lululemon actually instructs its educators to listen to customer conversations as well. That's why the folding tables are strategically placed by the fitting rooms instead of in the back of the store. They report this data back to headquarters every couple of weeks.

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Lululemon Founder Makes Staff Ask Supervisors Weird Questions

For some weird reason, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson forces his staff members to ask their supervisors super weird questions that involve bizarre scenarios. For example: "12 people have been shipwrecked on a deserted island. There is one boat that will hold six people, and if those six people work perfectly as a team, they have a 10% chance of survival."

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Already weird, but this is where it gets really strange: "The people left behind will perish. Would you take me in the boat? Why or why not?" Honestly, what manager would actually attempt to answer that question? That’s just asking for trouble!

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Lululemon Founder Thinks Getting Sick Is Your Fault

In increasingly stranger news, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson thinks getting sick is your own fault. According to his blog post called "The Secret," he admits to believing that becoming ill is a personal choice. To sum it up, he quipped, "Health attracts health, sickness attracts sickness."

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With such a simplistic worldview, it's no wonder that one of the company's official sayings is "Stress is related to 99% of all illness." He’s not wrong to connect stress to illness, of course, but it’s a bit extreme to imply you bring all illness on yourself. The company isn’t afraid to paste this slogan on the windows of its retail stores as well. If you're feeling under the weather, Lululemon definitely won’t attempt to make you feel better.

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Lululemon Founder Blames You for Lacking Greatness

If you've ever felt that your life wasn't "great" enough, join the club. Unfortunately, feeling this way, even temporarily, is nothing more than a pity party in the eyes of Chip Wilson. The outspoken executive wrote on his blog that "Greatness is demanding the best of everything and doing what is required to get it."

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Okay, that’s probably true, but there's more. In typical Wilson fashion, he didn’t stop there. "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 best out of one’s self." Looks like it’s all up to you and your demands.

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Lululemon Founder Was Forced to Step Down

Unsurprisingly, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson was eventually forced to step down from his position as branding and chief innovation officer. Although the company didn't exactly say why Wilson was asked to leave his lofty positions, it’s probably safe to assume it has something to do with his many controversial comments.

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However, in an insane turn of events, Wilson was allowed to stay with the company as its chairman of the board. As for the chief executive officer position, it has been filled by Christine Day.

So, what do you do when one corporate door closes? If you’re Chip Wilson, you invest in a tea company!

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Lululemon Employees Do Everything Together

The secret is out: Lululemon employees do everything together. Just take another look at Mary Mann's essay in Salon, where she revealed, "We were positive. We were healthy. We were enthusiastic." It doesn't sound too bad until she says they had to work out together before, during and after work.

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As a matter of fact, Mann dished, "While retail employees at American Apparel or Forever 21 might spend their half-hour breaks eating pizza or smoking in the alley, my coworkers and I did sit-ups and headstands, read the self-help books in the employee library and talked sh*t about gluten!"

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Lululemon Creates Painful Clothing

Consider this: Not only do you have to worry about squeezing into Lululemon's exceedingly tiny yoga pants, but you also have to be worry about poking your eye out while trying on tops. In an embarrassing PR disaster, Lululemon was forced to remove almost 320,000 tops from stores as a result of so-called "dangerous drawstrings" in 2015.

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If you were unlucky enough to purchase one of those tops, you may have very vivid memories of it springing back and slapping you in the face. Several women claimed they had injuries to their face and eyes due to these pesky drawstrings.

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Lululemon Tells Employees Work Should "Feel Like a Party"

If you've ever slumped into work early Monday morning after a busy weekend, you probably didn't feel like work would be a fun party. In fact, you probably felt like the party was officially over as soon as you crawled out of bed. Meanwhile, Lululemon managers actually encourage their staff to have a party-like attitude at work.

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Former Lululemon worker Mary Mann's boss told her, "Your attitude isn't as positive and energetic as it was when you started." Her supervisor excitedly added, "Coming here should feel like a party!" Just think, if you get fired someday, at least you can go down wearing your party hat!

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Lululemon Actually Has Its Own Language

Super fans of the Lululemon brand have even created their own language. Similar to trendy sneaker companies, the company often releases must-have Wunder Under Pants and Wunder Under Crops as WUPs and WUCs, respectively. As if that's not confusing enough, the athletic company calls its current online clothing section "uploads" instead of items.

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Besides calling staff members educators, Lululemon management also loves to give their proprietary clothing technology fancy names like Luon, Luxtreme and Swift. So, next time you hear the word "Swift" in a Lululemon store, you know they're definitely not talking about Taylor Swift's latest album.

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Lululemon Educators Are Fans of Naked Yoga

Okay, if these details about Lululemon haven’t made you feel awkward enough already, here's another shocking gem. Lululemon staff members are all about naked yoga. Ironically, the corporate website has a blog post that advocates nude yoga — pretty weird promotion for a clothing store.

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Besides this creepy fact, they also encourage their customers to get emotionally naked, telling their audience to strip down to "what is authentic, progressive and real — even if that’s a little bit uncomfortable." The point is to find "the courage to get a bit exposed in body, mind and spirit."

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Lululemon's Ideal Male Customer Is Named Duke

Guess what? Another anonymous Lululemon employee revealed more about the company's weird cult tactics to the female-oriented media outlet Jezebel. If you recall what was said about Ocean, Lululemon’s ideal customer, you won't be too surprised to find out she has a male counterpart.

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Meet Duke. As stated by the anonymous whistleblower, Lululemon managers train their staff to follow this confusing concept: "Anything you do, you appeal to that ideal, imaginary muse." Of course, the wellness brand doesn't actually expect its customers to ever become these people. "They can try, but they’ll never be," says the whistleblower.

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Lululemon Has a Nonsensical 10-Year Goal List

Think about this: Lululemon has a 10-year goal list that makes just about as much sense as the label on a Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle. Incredibly, an anonymous Lululemon employee spilled the beans that "It’s a company that really purports to be about their people, so you’d think they’d examine [the high turnover rate] more."

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Apparently not. Instead of focusing on why so many retail employees are quitting all the time, they would rather turn their attention to "getting global collective scores within the top quartile of happiest people on the planet." Yeah, we don't really know what that means either.

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Lululemon Has a "Clearing" Ritual for Angry Employees

If you've ever walked into work in a terrible mood, then the last thing you really want is to be put through a ritualistic "clearing" ceremony to get you through it. Oddly enough, that's exactly what the company does to angry Lululemon employees.

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In fact, one anonymous insider noted that "if you’re in a bad mood when you walk in, you have to do a ‘clearing,’ which is this neo-spiritual way of making you say whatever is going on in your life, and then someone coaches you on how to get over it." If that doesn't work, Lululemon managers can always refer disgruntled employees to their extensive Ayn Rand library.

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Lululemon Educators Are Walking, Talking Billboards

If you've ever worked at Lululemon, then you know a lot of effort goes into convincing their educators to wear Lululemon products all day, every day. It's simple: The company tells its educators to attend community fitness classes exclusively clad in the brand's skin-tight spandex. (Because working out three times a day with fellow employees isn’t enough.)

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At least they actually pay educators to take up to two health classes per week. Although the company has since been sued for this bribe-like incentive, they still encourage their employees to exclusively don Lululemon clothing under the radar. Employees know they must meet these unspoken requirements to move up.

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Lululemon Makes Employees Take Public Transportation

It's no coincidence that most Lululemon educators are super fit and ultra-fitness-obsessed. That's because many of them work hard to practice what they preach when it comes to the sustainable gym rat lifestyle that they're selling.

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As a result, almost two-thirds of Lululemon educators in Vancouver, Canada, actually bike or walk to their jobs every day. If not, they are encouraged to take public transportation to work instead of driving. So, after being on their feet all day, they can look forward to a walk or a cramped train or bus ride when it's time to go.

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Lululemon Has Really Sweaty Interviews

You know the feeling: clammy hands, nervous heartbeat, jittery footsteps. If you're like most people, going for an interview is already an overwhelming and stressful experience. Now, try doing it on a motionless spin bike with sweat pouring down your brow.

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According to the media outlet HRM Today, that's exactly what future Lululemon educators have to look forward to during their hiring process. In fact, it's not uncommon for company executives to invite potential employees to spin classes or yoga lessons to see them flex their skills in real life. So, if you're thinking of applying, hopefully you're flexible and fit enough to pass the test. That’s not discriminatory at all, right?

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Lululemon Gets Customers Addicted to Its Products

For those of you who whip out your credit card at the first sign of a Lululemon sale, we salute you. One of the reasons the brand’s marketing tactics are so effective is because they literally get their customers addicted to their products.

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CNN reported that Lululemon reels its favorite clients in by selling so-called "wow items" for a limited time only. What makes "wow items" so special is that they're super exclusive products that will be taken off the shelves almost as soon as they were stocked. After a short period, these coveted items are gone for good!

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