company culture

$98.00 yoga pants.

"Say no to camel toe," says a new ad for lululemon on the back cover of a Yoga Journal magazine I was just flipping through. So now, I have something to say.

I think it's safe to say every woman who has worn yoga pants- or any other kind of tight pant- has at least once had camel toe.  Guess what, you pull your pants down and voila... crisis averted.

Avoiding camel toe is just not reason enough for me to buy $98.oo yoga pants.

I used to work for lululemon.  I started as a PT salesperson (called an "educator") as I shopped around for what to do when I moved back home from California and ended up managing a showroom for one of their new markets.  I loved everything about my job: the freedom, the deep discounts on the great clothes, the free yoga, dance, pilates and whatever other exercise-du-jour classes I wanted to try out, the people, the amazing people I was proud to call coworkers, the ridiculously fun events we held, the ambassadors... pretty much everything.

And I still look back on it lovingly.  But that was all a while ago and I feel like now that the smoke and mirrors have been lifted, I can see the company a bit more clearly.  And by the company, I don't mean the amazing, wonderful, kind-hearted and very talented people I had the pleasure to meet and get to know who work at corporate in Vancouver and the soon-to-be managers across the country.  I mean the people who run and make the money from the circus.

I guess it was a little culty.  But that's what got me at first.  They paid educators horribly, but their values and ideals were so great and everyone was so happy and fit that I decided to forget about the money and go for the experience.  The training period was fun, I was suggested books that all "lulus" starting out should read.  Books like "Good to Great", "Tipping Point", "A New Earth", "Skinny Bitch" and since I had already read most of the required reading, the company seemed right up my alley and a place I could call home for a while.  We had class blitzes where we would compete with each other or other showrooms and stores around the country to see who could get in the most classes in a week.  It was exhausting but exciting. It was a blast and we met the funnest people all over the city.  I soon became manager and was sent to Vancouver for a month, all expenses paid, and put up in a cushy condo with two other managers-to-be.  I felt so on top of the world.  My huge fear of not finding a good job back home disappeared and I felt great!  So great that I even did the Grouse Grind in pretty good time. And I don't do well with mountains!  Before Grouse, I had been on a total of ONE mountain in my entire life and that was Mt. Tam in San Francisco which I almost fell off of from vertigo.  Enough said.

Once in a while someone would come in- this person would usually be a yogi I knew and respected- and inquire about why our prices were so high.  Manager training prepared us thoroughly for this moment...

"Well, our fabric is guaranteed for up to 5 years and it has the highest integrity of any fabric in comparable athletic attire.  If something were to happen to it you could always bring it back and exchange it, no questions asked."

In all my time working there, I only had to exchange one pair of pants.  The fabric was THAT amazing and durable and comfortable.  It really did everything they said it did.  AND it prevented "camel toe".

But they cost $98.00 (and I think they've actually raised the price now from a few years back).

I've been doing yoga for about ten years now.  I was friends with all these teachers and students that walked in to the showroom and I started having a problem with selling such expensive clothing.  For YOGA.  At first, I was completely behind the company.  But it wore off and I felt sillier and sillier as time went by because actual YOGA, like the real-deal 8 limbs of yoga, has absolutely nothing to do with luon (lululemon's signature fabric) or showrooms or class blitzes or brand ambassadors or trunk shows.  Actual yoga has little to do with "yoga" as most people know it- the pretzel postures everyone's intimidated by.  Those postures are only one limb to aid in creating a supple body and peaceful mind to facilitate long sits in meditation.  But I can't blame lululemon for trying.  I guess the reason they became the "Gucci of athletic wear" (one way we justified the prices) was because yoga had long since become like any other business in the states, thereby paving the way for "high end yoga apparel" for rich white people ??!?  Yoga + capitalism= $98.00 yoga pants.  And I started to smell a rat.

Fast forward to me quitting because I just couldn't stomach it anymore, among other pressing reasons.  I was very sad to go because I had such high hopes for me there.  But after all of that, and sitting in on conference calls all day every Wednesday and listening to perky girl after way-too-perky girl giving "props to the fabulous new run skirt.  OMG, it's awesoooooome", I decided it was just not for me and my experience was not what I expected.  When I finally made the decision, I gave my month's notice.  It was heartbreaking last month.  And my boss... my boss... who was supposed to be the embodiment of positivity, forward and open thinking, and greatness, suddenly 180'd on me and sent me off with a few expletives.  She apologized later, but the final damage had been done.

I look at the logo nowadays and I still feel nostalgic.  I am so thankful for my time in Vancouver which they made possible and for the amazing people I met.  But these ads they come out with month after month bites the very hand that feeds them: the yoga community.  The majority of yogis can't afford their clothes.  When I went back to shop- without my discount- I was shocked at their actual price tags.  They offer a great product, but who are they offering it to exactly?

I still love their manifesto.  But I'll take those nuggets of wisdom and be on my merry way.  When I worked there, I always laughed to myself at their use of the word "manifesto".  It always made me think of "The Communist Manifesto."  And just like communism, it was all much better on paper.