Do you know who Chip Wilson is? He’s from Vancouver, where I proudly hang my hat. So I really want to be proud of him. He’s an amazing entrepreneur, who has created global, multi-billion dollar companies, mainly Lululemon Athletica, which revolutionized what we wear to and from yoga. And yet, over the past year, it’s been hard to be proud of Chip.
First there was his company’s see-through yoga pants. That was bad, but not nearly as bad as his explanation. In a media interview, Chip told a reporter that basically, their pants aren’t designed for larger women. Or at least that was the inference. What he really said was:
When asked about complaints about pilling of the fabric, Wilson replied:
“There has always been pilling. The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don’t work or they’ll wear a purse that doesn’t work or, quite frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t work for it,” Wilson said. “Even our small sizes would fit an extra large, [but] It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there … over a period of time, and how much they use it,” he continued.
His wife who was sitting next to him during the interview cringed when he said it and tried to back peddle, but the damage was done. So now Chip must apologize.
And that’s the other reason why it’s hard to be proud of Chip. His “apology.” ABC News called it perhaps the “worst apology ever.” The only response he had to that big mistake in media relations was to post a short clip on Youtube that was directed to Lululemon staff, but was of course public.
How was this a mistake? Well, first, he only apologized to staff, not customers or anyone else he offended. Next, he told us how sad he is that this has happened, but it’s not about you, Chip, it’s about the company’s reputation, it’s about sales, and it’s about being seen not to be offending potential and current customers. What he said:
“I’m sad. I’m really sad. I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions. I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about that have really had to face the brunt of my action…I take responsibility for all that has occurred and the impact it has had on you. I’m sorry to have put you through all this.”
And that’s about it. He did not retract his statement that “some women’s bodies just don’t work” for his pants. And he didn’t apologize to those who might have taken offence. He didn’t explain or add context or take it back. He’s just sad and sorry. For his staff.
Chip has spawned many parodies, including a top five of his most controversial quotes that I quite like.
Oh Chip, we want to love you, but you make it so hard!