Lululemon founder Chip Wilson has published a tell-all ebook that eviscerates the company’s current and former directors and chief executives.
In the book, titled “Little Black Stretchy Pants,” Wilson writes that Lululemon “self-imploded” by allegedly lowering investments in quality control and focusing too heavily on strategies that would drive up the company’s stock price.
He claims that he told ex-Lululemon CEO Christine Day in a meeting that she was a “world-class chief operations officer” but a “terrible CEO” and alleges that she “fake” cried in response.
Wilson rails against the term “athleisure,” saying it denotes a “non-athletic, smoking, Diet Coke-drinking woman in a New Jersey shopping mall wearing an unflattering pink velour tracksuit.”
Lululemon founder Chip Wilson has published a tell-all ebook that eviscerates the company’s current and former directors and chief executives, as well as the media and Wall Street analysts.
In the book, titled “Little Black Stretchy Pants,” Wilson writes that Lululemon “self-imploded” when its executives, and particularly former CEO Christine Day, allegedly focused too much on driving up the company’s stock price and in turn, lowered investments in quality control.
This strategy, Wilson claims, ultimately led to Lululemon’s catastrophic 2013 recall of 17% of its pants for being too sheer, which cost the company about $60 million.
“A lifetime of research into how to make best-in-the-world non-transparent black stretch pants all came undone in an instant,” Wilson writes in the new ebook. “The sheerness issue was our fault, plain and simple. I was mortified for Lululemon.”
Wilson addresses a variety of other surprising and somewhat unpopular opinions and topics throughout the book, including his tacit support for child labor and his belief that the birth control pill led to higher divorce rates and breast cancer.
Here are some of the most interesting highlights:
Wilson addresses his 2013 interview with Bloomberg, in which he said Lululemon pants “don’t work” for some women’s bodies. Wilson writes that the “catastrophic” interview “ruined” him.
When asked in 2013 why customers were complaining that their pants were pilling, Wilson told Bloomberg TV: “Frankly some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it.”
He went on to say: “They don’t work for some women’s bodies … it’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”
His remarks were widely condemned.
“With those words and that sound bite, I was ruined,” he writes in the new book. “From the Bloomberg moment on, nothing would be the same. My comments were the antithesis of everything I stood for, and of everything the women of Lululemon and I had built. The ramifications for the company, for my family, and for everyone involved were catastrophic. I made a mistake, and I was going to pay heavily for it.”
In the aftermath of the interview, Lululemon’s board of directors painted him as the “weird uncle,” he told Business Insider in an interview.
This gave the board the power to shift the conversation from quality issues to a “wildcard founder” who was sinking the ship, he said.
But Wilson still stands by his belief that pilling problems with Lululemon’s leggings were caused by women squeezing into pants that were too small.
Wilson writes that his comments were misinterpreted and “what was simple was made scandalous.”
“With the pilling, what I eventually discovered was that some women were buying the pants two to four sizes smaller than necessary, with body shaping in mind,” he writes. “If enough stress is placed on any object, fractures will occur.”
Wilson also suggests that The New York Times might have accepted a bribe in return for publishing a negative story about Lululemon in 2007.
The New York Times
The Times wrote a story in 2007 accusing Lululemon of making false claims that its clothing contained seaweed. The story cited lab testing as evidence that the claims were false.
“When I read it, my first thought was that it was mean-spirited,” Wilson recalls in the book. “Lululemon was all about love so I couldn’t imagine why someone would ever write something like that.”
Wilson says he wouldn’t doubt that a short-seller paid the Times to write the story.
If “short sellers want to ensure profits, then the smart ones will manufacture a false story that will impact the stock,” Wilson writes. “There is so much money to be made I wouldn’t doubt a backroom payoff to the writer.”
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