Last week, yoga/fitness/lifestyle clothier Lululemon's founder Chip Wilson made a huge body image/weight stigma blunder by refusing to take any responsibility when accused of poor product construction. Instead, he blamed yoga pant pilling on poorly constructed women. "Some women's bodies just actually don't work," he said. "It's about the rubbing through the thighs." It's not the fabric's fault, silly; it's your bulging gams.
Wilson has apologized publicly for the offense, but many in the eating disorder community just won't have it. Body Image Advocate Marci Warfhaft-Nadler makes some excellent points here and also started a change.org petition encouraging Lululemon founder Chip Wilson to "stop shaming women's bodies" and "apologize and make clothes for women of all sizes!"
In defense of Lululemon, I happen to like their products, swayed early on by the brand's comfort, fit, and seeming impermeability to sweat smells and stains.* Granted, unlike the average American woman, I wear a size that entitles me to shop at Lululemon in the first place, but in my experience, their yoga and running pants actually pill less than other brands. And, for those of you who have never seen me, I'm sans thigh gap and not even close to a top-shelf Lululemon'er. And yet, my trusted Lulus have held up over
time. . .
Wilson made an offensive comment and for that, he should take responsibility, but let's hate the player and the game. Wilson's fat-shaming sentiment, and the brand's refusal to carry larger sizes, are not at all unique to Wilson or Lululemon. Rather, they are problems that plague the fashion industry and our culture as a whole. The conversation about bodies, clothing, and weight stigma goes way beyond Chip Wilson and Lululemon and must evolve, along with the industry, to be more inclusive and less offensive to all of us.
*Product plugs: I'm grateful to Lululemon, Nike, Hard Tail, New Balance, and Apple products for outfitting and entertaining me during today's morning workout, which allowed me the time and space to write this blog post in my head.