Biting the Hand That Feeds: Lululemon’s Founder Steps Down as Chairman

Lululemon – you either love the brand, or you hate it. And if you were a victim of their see-through yoga pants disaster, then you probably are in the latter group. We’ll take a look at how throwing caution to the wind in business can cause your career to unravel at the seams.

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(Photo Credit: arztsamui/freedigitalphotos.net)

Many avid yogis swear by Lululemon's athletic wear, claiming it’s like wearing heaven on your skin. However, this past year, the over-priced and once well-loved brand took a plunge into PR hell. When the company experienced a see-through yoga pants glitch, the founder and chairman, Chip Wilson, decided to blame the issue on the not-so-waify women of the world, rather than fessing up to the real reason --  cuts in manufacturing quality. Sure, why not blame it on larger ladies, Chip Wilson? That seems like a noble business move. 

As it turns out, nobody cared for Wilson’s lack of professionalism at all, and the brand took a huge hit (duh). Earlier this year, Lululemon’s then-CEO, Christine Day, announced her resignation from the company and exclaimed that her departure “was a personal decision,” but it also, coincidentally, happened after it was found that the brand’s yoga pants were exposing a bit more than customers would have liked.

Wilson has a history of cringe-worthy antics that hasn’t done much for his credibility as a compassionate, non-sexist, non-racist, or conniving businessman whatsoever. According to Salon, Wilson has stated that “'the number of cigarette-smoking Power Women who were on the pill' led to breast cancer and 'the era of divorce.'” And when asked about the company’s name, his response was, “It’s funny to watch [Japanese people] try to say it,” according to Salon and Financial Post reports. Apparently, that $1.4 billion in sales that Lululemon made last year was used to pump Wilson full of ignorance and callousness, especially toward the company’s lifeblood – its customers. Hopefully the company’s newly named CEO, Laurent Potdevin, former CEO of TOMS, has some brighter things in store for the high-end athletic apparel giant.

What’s the lesson here for professionals looking to steer clear of career disgrace? Easy: don’t be sexist or racist, or belittle other people. As you know, what goes around, comes around.

The degree of separation between you and everyone else in the business world is far less now than it once was, thanks to social media. You're closer than you think to an employer, colleague, or complete stranger, so choose your words and actions wisely to prevent yourself from doing or saying anything that you will probably regret later.

Time will tell if Potdevin has what it takes to redeem Lululemon from the ruins his predecessor, Wilson, left behind. The lesson learned, kids – don’t bite the hand that feeds because it will, undoubtedly, come back around to smack you down.

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