Founded in 1998 in Vancouver, Canada, Lululemon is a contemporary sportswear brand that initially gained recognition for its optimal-performance yoga pants. The highly functional and comfortable tops, pants, outerwear, daily wear, and sports gear are products of extensive observation of physical movements—or “the science of feel,” as described by the brand. Lululemon is regarded as standing at the epicenter of the athleisure trend, offering garments suited not only for workouts but also for daily life and even work. The brand has grown rapidly to secure an exclusive market share that rivals long-standing global sports brand powerhouses, a success rooted in the philosophy of symbiotic brand-customer prosperity that encourages community building centered on local stores and Lululemon ambassadors.
Welcome to the 75th edition of B.
I remember a conversation I had with my friend about a couple of years ago, instigated by the question: “What does it mean to live well?” The conversation soon circled around the topic of wealth, or plausible indicators of a wealthy life, yet neither of us could agree with the notion that fashion, cars, watches, or smart gadgets were the factors that determined the quality of one’s life. In the end, we concluded that the times have changed—that now, our bodies determine our standards of living, not our possessions. It goes without saying that it’s not about weight or muscle mass. It’s more about how much time and money we can afford to spend on taking care of our bodies. If how a person spends excess resources and time determines their lifestyle, today’s society recommends that we invest in the health of our bodies and minds rather than in our cynical tastes. Preferences and styles can be imitated to a certain degree after a few quick glances, whereas a healthy life is impossible to fake, which is why it may just be the ultimate form of luxury.
After a recent business trip to Los Angeles, I’ve been able to add more weight to this argument. I had noticed some signs a couple of years back, but this time, the wellness business sector of the trend-sensitive city seemed fully ripe. The most sophisticated and stylish of people were found in front of healthy cafés, juice bars, and fitness studios instead of areas packed with fancy boutiques or high-end restaurants. Sports-related stores were the most effervescent scenes of them all. The retail store of the Canadian sportswear brand Lululemon, the brand of this month and also the epicenter of the worldwide wellness boom, was particularly bustling with people. The customers, dressed in vibrant-colored, dynamic-patterned training outfits, seemed to have mastered a way of expressing themselves through nothing more than a holistic health and a bright attitude—explicitly the kind of culture Lululemon seeks to propagate.
While Lululemon may be unfamiliar to some, it’s hard not to notice the brand once you learn of its massive growth and impact on the market. As of 2018, Lululemon ranked fifth among sportswear brands in terms of revenue following behind big global brands like Nike, Adidas, and Puma, and in 2015, it was reportedly the world’s top fashion retail brand with sales per square foot amounting to USD 1,541. How did a Vancouver-based brand once catering only to the yoga community encroach on the world market to eventually threaten the decades-long hold of major sports powerhouses?
I’d say that one of Lululemon’s success factors is the brand’s stance, completely oblique to the traditional attitude of sportsmanship—the incitement, the combativeness. Most global sports brands deploy emphatic tones that stimulate challenge and achievement. In other words, their principles rooted in “professionalism” govern everything from their marketing to design to communication methods. Rooted in yoga, on the other hand, Lululemon’s orientation looks toward “personality,” toward individual characteristics. The brand tells you that you don’t have to look like anyone else or be intimidated by your goals. It hopes that physical discipline will settle in among the various aspects that make up your life but recognizes that everyone has a different way of achieving that. Lululemon’s apparel can be worn as sportswear, casualwear, and office wear, and such versatility is a result of the brand’s philosophy of respecting the user’s freedom.
Such philosophy is directly applied to their product development as well. Among the many expressions that describe Lululemon’s products is “naked sensation.” Rather than by style or purpose, Lululemon stores organize and display their signature pants according to the degree and sensation of tightness. In fact, instead of specific measurements, their research lab concentrates on materializing subjective emotions and sensations through design, “rethinking the concept of performance based on how the customers feel,” as they explain. For example, some may not require as tight of support in their body as others. Lululemon, unlike other sports brands, has focused on individual experience and diversity. In a sense, they’ve honed their skills to fully satisfy a specific few rather than to convert a random mass. What’s more exciting is that they’ve announced their next step as analyzing distinct personal movements to provide highly customized products. If the brand’s successful accumulation of cult-like followers through the marriage of the yoga spirit and advanced material technology wasn’t enough, this new roadmap definitely makes us anticipate how Lululemon will rewrite its unique success story.
Content & Editorial Director
Black Stretchy Pants
The status of Lululemon’s Align Pant as seen through media reviews
Amanda Casgar, Director of Global Culture & Talent Integration, Lululemon
Three Lululemon locations that served as turning points for the brand
How Lululemon designs and utilizes space to pioneer experiential retailing
Tom Waller, Senior Vice President of Whitespace™, Lululemon
Lululemon’s key products and their characteristics born through research and experimentation
Interviews with Lululemon’s designers who add tactile delight to performance to complete the athleisure look
People who pursue wellness and their lifestyle items
Community-based wellness businesses advocating healthy lifestyles and mind-body balance
Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Global Yoga Ambassador, Lululemon
Lululemon’s favorite quotes propose healthy ways of living and thinking
Vision & Goals
In-store Vision and Goals sessions help establish direction and objectives
Stories of people who have achieved physical health and mental growth by making wellness part of their lives
Lululemon, the market shifter offering sportswear that blends into everyday life, its growth, and its prospects
The corporate culture founded on Vision and Goals to encourage personal growth
Michelle Davies, Vice President Global Events and Athlete and Influencer Programs; Celeste Burgoyne, Executive Vice President, The Americas and Global Guest Innovation; and Calvin McDonald, CEO
The annual half-marathon summer festival in Vancouver gathers Lululemon communities from across the world
Sportswear brands and wellness platforms that might become the next-generation Lululemon
The sportswear industry seen through stock market trends and consumption patterns
The athleisure market and Lululemon’s growth seen through numbers
- Publisher Suyong Joh
- Executive Director Myungsoo Kim
- Content & Editorial Director Eunsung Park
- Lead Editor Jean Kim
- Editors Jaewoo Seo, Chanyong Park, Narae Kim, Hyun Son, Sol Lyu
- Photographer Miyeon Yoon
- Assistant Editor Dongeun Han
- Managing & Editing (English Edition) Jean Kim
- Translation (English Edition) Seoul Selection
- Correspondents Mihye Nam (Tokyo), Lena Shin (LA), Alex Seo (London), Sanghyeok Lee (Berlin), Hyeseon Jeong (Paris)
- Art Direction & Design Gyeongtak Kang
- Assistant Design Yoonjung Jang
- Marketing Hyunjoo Kim, Yeubin Kim
- Sales & Distribution Suyeon Kim
- Business Strategy Kyuseong Kim
- Publishing JOH
- The Art of Possibility
- Stress Less, Accomplish More
- The New Health Rules
- The Happiness Diet: Good Mood Food
- Leggings Are Not Pants
- 108 Days of Mindfulosophy Journal
- Little Black Stretchy Pants
- Sweat Equity
- Lululemon YouTube
- Breathe Magazine