There have been a lot of comparisons made over the last week or so between Abercrombie & Fitch founder, Mike "We only like the cool kids" Jeffries and Lululemon founder, Chip "Our designs aren't flawed, your bodies are" Wilson. It's seems that both men have a very clear idea of what they consider to be attractive and have made a lot of money convincing consumers to feel the same way.
But there's one big difference between these two clothing moguls and that's transparency. While I've never met Mike Jeffries, I think his obsession with superficial beauty is as intense as the cologne that is pumped through the air vents in his stores. And I kind of like that about him.
Don't get me wrong, I think that the comments he made were vile and ignorant, but not completely surprising. The man surrounds himself with models and has strict dress codes for how they should look at all times. I think this is his way of finally being able to hang around with the cool kids in the hopes that some of their coolness with rub off on him and he'll finally feel like he belongs. Do I think that's a tad shallow? Sure I do, but nobody goes to Abercrombie to shop for inner beauty.
Now I'm not going to suggest that I believe Lululemon is much different. I'm not going to pretend to believe that they put fitness before fashion or people before profits, but I do think that Mr. Wilson's motives, unlike his now infamous yoga pants, have not been very transparent.
At least they weren't, until last week when he said all that silly stuff about some women's bodies just not being right for his clothes. By choosing to put the blame on our "flawed" bodies instead of his flawed designs he proved that the thigh gap trend is not just another way for teenage girls to torture themselves but also a guideline for designing overpriced yoga wear for the young and hipless.
His comments upset a lot of people as did the fact that Lululemon doesn't stock items over a size 12. But there are also some people who say, "So what? If the clothes don't fit, just shop somewhere else." Which exactly why I find Lululemon's size shaming so much more frustrating than that of Abercrombie & Fitch.
Lululemon is supposed to be about positivity and inspiration. They've even got their own mission statement which they refer to as their "manifesto", which consists of ideas and philosophies for healthy and positive living. But wait a minute, if they're trying to inspire us to be healthy, why are they criticizing our healthy bodies? The major problem I see here is that instead of celebrating women's bodies for what they can do, Lululemon is judging them on how they look.
Et Tu, Lululemon?
Here's a much-needed reality check: fit bodies are not one-size fits all. The size of a woman's hips and thighs do not determine her strength or state of health. By making size 12 the cut off point for the clothes they carry, Lululemon is suggesting that women who wear a larger size either don't work out or shouldn't work out in their brand.
That's not very zen of them, now is it?
According to the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, research found negative body image was consistently cited as a barrier for girls participating in exercise, as popular culture gave out the message it was more important to be thin than fit.
If Lululemon's mantras were truly about health and fitness they would offer a wider selection of sizes since all women deserve to appreciate and care for their bodies. I understand that it's not Chip Wilson's responsibility to make women feel good about themselves and (thankfully) nobody has put him in charge of our self-esteem and body image, but the sad truth is that an increasing number of women of all ages are spending more of their time hating their bodies than taking care of them. We're being taught to believe that the skinniest bodies are the best bodies when that's not always the case.
Lululemon need to start designing for women's bodies instead of against them so that all women can start celebrating their bodies for being healthy, instead of loathing them for not being skinny enough.
I find it frustrating that the people who are making the most money off of women's bodies are the ones who seem to understand them the least.
It wasn't that long ago when Mike Jeffries said, "'A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong." And now, after a campaign by eating disorder survivor, Benjamin O'Keefe, Abercrombie & Fitch has plans to start selling plus-size clothing. Can Lululemon be next?
Media studies professor, Rebecca Hains and I hope so. We'd also like an apology from Chip Wilson (This one preferably to the women he offended and not to his own employees) for being thoughtless and judgmental. We don't think it's too much to ask, in fact, he'd be taking his own advice according to one of Lululemon's own 31 ideas and life philosophies which reads:
"The world is changing at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will leave you 2 steps behind. DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW!"
Sounds like good advice to me.