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Friday, November 16, 2007

all tangled up in seaweed

by now, you've probably heard the big to-do about the lulu seaweed controversy. you know, the scandal supposedly brought to light a couple of days ago by the new york times when lab tests they commissioned concluded that lululemon's vitasea fabric, supposedly made from seaweed fiber, actually contained no seaweed.

strangely enough, the story started sounding even fishier when it was also revealed that the times looked into the matter only after "... an investor who is shorting Lululemon’s stock — betting that its price will fall — provided (the) test results to The Times..."

and sure enough, a day after the article was published, shares of lululemon stock took a dive. surprise, surprise.

i don't know about you, but i've been somewhat skeptical anyway about a fabric's ability to "reduce stress as well as provide anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating and detoxifying benefits." i think i'll stick to old-fashioned pills and lotions to do that for me :)

on the lighter side of things, here's an interesting article in today's vancouver sun about the scandal's effect on life in kitsilano, the trendy neighborhood in vancouver, british columbia where lululemon was founded by chip wilson back in 1998.

maybe some stress-relieving yoga might help get them through this crisis?

Lululemon seaweed scandal has Kits in a sweat at Capers
Chip, dude, how will we stay chilled out in our beach-side republic of cool?

Miro Cernetig, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, November 16, 2007

Here in the Republic of Kitsilano, beach-side epicentre of the West Coast's good life, our haberdashery of the moment is Lululemon. It's become the sartorial version of Starbucks.

In case you haven't had the pleasure, here's a taste of how the Lululemon shopping experience can go.

You: Hello, I'd like to buy a T-shirt.

Lululemon Zen Wardrobe Master: What size?

You: Medium, thanks.

LZWM: Would that be soy? Seaweed? Or cotton?

You: Huh?

LZWM: Well, our cotton T's are nice but there's all that history on your back -- slavery, the cotton gin, the Industrial Revolution, the Klan, you know. But soy -- it's soft, nice, very organic. And our seaweed T's? Well, just read our label: "VitaSea Technology is made from cellulose fibre combined with seaweed containing marine amino acids, minerals and vitamins which release into the skin upon contact with moisture [i.e. sweat]."

And those marine amino acids, the label adds, are "stress reducing" -- and "calming."

Ka-ching. Fifty bucks for the seaweed number. Take every edge you can in these stressful times.

Now, alas, we're facing a crisis in Lululand.

It turns out we may not have been getting all those stress-busting amino acids after all from our seaweed underthings. The New York Times, in a front-page expose, reports that its independent testing laboratory failed to detect any seaweed in a randomly selected Lululemon T-shirt.

Dennis (Chip) Wilson, the Vancouver founder of Lululemon Athletica, admitted it may be true. His company -- which raised $327 million in its initial public offering this year -- didn't really test the claim scientifically. The seaweed fabric was bought from a German manufacturer and Wilson simply put it on and concluded, in that Kits touchy-feely way of doing things, "If you put it on and wear it, it is different from cotton. That's my only test of it."

As a resident of Kitsilano, I can only say this to Chip: Dude, this is a major lifestyle blow.

Thanks to having Lululemon's chairman of the board hail from Vancouver, we in Kits proudly laid claim to Lululemon's very first flagship store. We've taken for granted that we've been at the cutting edge of Chip's testing of seaweed wear, not to mention athletic gear woven from bamboo, coconut and other under-appreciated miracle fibres to improve the world.

I've been banking on Lulu's stress-free wardrobe philosophy to get me through a particularly stressful period in the Republic of Kits. Life has not been just a beach in the last few months.

First, this summer, the Kits universe was shaken when we found out our favourite organic supermarket may be bought out by Americans.

Capers, which was owned by Wild Oat Markets, was acquired by the Austin, Tex.-based Whole Foods. Not just Americans. It's Texans selling us our tofu!

Then our saltwater pool was closed by the civic strike. That made the amino acids from those Lululemon seaweed T's so, so important to us all.

Then we woke up one morning to find our famous bar had burned to a crisp overnight. Bimini's, where more than a few Kits romances and affairs both began and ended, sometimes in the same night, is now a blackened husk. Rumour is it might open for a younger crowd, squeezing out the balding baby boomers for the upstart millennials.

But all the change always seemed a little easier to take with a trip to Lululemon's flagship store. Get a free glass of filtered water. Buy a piece of yoga-wear. Take it home in one of Chip's little plastic bags, emblazoned with those life-affirming pensees: "Dance, sing, floss and travel. Observe a plant before and after watering and relate these benefits to your body and brain . . . . Do one thing a day that scares you."

I do, Chip, I drive in Vancouver's rush hour. And I just bought a place as the U.S.-housing market tanks. But Dude, how can I stay chilled without knowing I have a marine amino acid T-shirt that really works?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I head of the seaweed incident' early on the morning of the 14th and subsequently blogged about it, the meaning of the brand to us
Vancouver folk (I'm a Kitsilano resident as well so it hit hardest here), and what long-term impact it may have if any.

The big issue, I think, is trust.


6:04 PM  
Blogger joni said...

hi darren --

if you think about it, regardless of whatever bad press a company is dragged through -- whether it be product recalls, reports of sweatshop labor, false/misleading advertising, political contributions, etc. -- consumers will eventually forget all of that and will resume purchasing their products as long as they feel they're getting a quality product.

i actually dropped by a lulu store just the other day and walked out empty-handed, but it was only because they didn't have what i wanted in my size (obviously, the latest scandal didn't affect me at all; i never bought into the supposed benefits of the fabric anyway).

i'll have to find your blog and read it... :)

thanks for writing in!

9:24 AM  

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