Breathe easy in Lululemon

Kelly Dawson
November 29, 2017
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Whether we like to admit it or not, we all spend a fair amount of our days sitting.

We get up, plop down inside a car, take a seat in front of a desk, stretch out on a couch, and kick up our heels to get back in bed. It’s relaxing, sure, but we all know that it isn’t healthy.

As easy as it is to recognize what an excess of inactivity can do to the body, it’s also a cinch to list off ways to get moving. From yoga and spinning to weight training and running, the number of heart-pumping pursuits on our radar could compete with the number of shows we plan to binge our way through.

So what’s holding us back from better health? Motivation — it’s the only difference between getting out there and staying put. That’s why the incentive behind Lululemon Athletica works so well: It’s a brand that figured out how to make sweating stylish, all while building a community bonded by an active lifestyle.

One leg at a time

Long before Lululemon was synonymous with exercise, it was the unsuspecting name of a small outpost that worked as a dual design and yoga studio in Vancouver. Chip Wilson founded the Canadian-based company in 1998, and it became a standalone store by the end of 2000.

At the time, Wilson’s focus was on creating yoga pants for women that met two goals: they had to be flexible enough for a strenuous workout but flattering enough to become a wardrobe staple. Wilson used high-end stretch fabric for the pants, which was the material he and a few partners had previously developed for a business selling luxury long underwear, and he set the price at just below $100 a pair.

It may have been a steep investment, but wasn’t long before many women, whether they had plans to exercise that day or not, had the company’s signature curved “A” logo emblazoned on their backs. By 2008, Lululemon was a public company with $350 million in sales and more than 100 locations. And whether it’s official or not, Lululemon helped coin a new word in our lexicon: athleisure.

Now, Lululemon has expanded on Wilson’s original idea by creating workout gear for men and women that withstand any activity in whatever type of weather. Garments meet a long list of requirements — from the essential details like a stretch that isn’t see-through and bonded seams that resist chafing, to the more “hey, that’s cool” add-ins like hidden hair ties and secure phone pockets — and they’re made ethically and sustainably. For instance, worldwide vendors are carefully selected and must stick to a code that protects workers, and as of 2017, fabrics can no longer be sourced from ancient or endangered forests. Basically, when it comes to how these products are made and what they can do, you don’t need to sweat it.

You can do it, put your back into it

Lululemon’s sartorial cues are all about exercise. But the brand didn’t stop at creating a certain high-energy look — the business has also been about inspiring the right feel.

Confidence-boosting mantras have been at the foundation of the company since its start, but perhaps more importantly, so has the mindset that devoting to an active lifestyle has more benefits than just bragging rights. Throughout Lululemon’s core philosophy is the idea that health is interconnected: it’s a personal pursuit that can lead to a community of similar values. That’s why Lululemon has a vast network of ambassadors who help support this initiative through classes set throughout the world. In fact, every store has complimentary yoga classes held once a week by teachers in their hometowns.

Festivals, retreats, and ongoing events are also a part of Lululemon’s outreach, but its “Here to Be” social impact initiative may be its most noble. It partners the company with global nonprofits — including GOOD and the Africa Yoga Project, for instance — to use yoga’s health benefits as a catalyst for healing. Individuals who have been injured or sick, or those who have been through conflicts, are invited to join classes that show them how to clear their minds and focus on the fluid movements of their bodies. The classes make yoga accessible to all, regardless of ability or location.

Get up, stand up

There’s a good chance you’ve been reading this while sitting down. No…don’t feel guilty. Instead of vowing to run a marathon in the next week, follow Lululemon’s more attainable guide: get active however you want, whenever you want. The point is simply to move.

Lululemon may be a brand best known for its form-fitting yoga pants, but it’s also a company that sees the potential in our everyday lives. We can’t do much without good health, so by inspiring us to look and feel our best — and participating in our communities on small and large scales — we have what we need to lead fuller lives. Of course, there’s also still room for binge-watching our favorite shows.

Lululemon is advocating for an active lifestyle with a long-term vision. The healthier we can be personally, and the more involved we can be publicly, the more likely our world can be stronger, too. They are a holding in our Healthy Living portfolio.

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