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Lululemon and Ayn Rand

2011 November 30

Like any good yoga student, I’m familiar with Lululemon Athletica and even drooled over their cute yoga pants and tops. A few years ago, being naive and young, I wandered into one of their stores in a burst of motivation to buy new workout clothes. I almost ran out screaming in terror. $128 for yoga pants?! I mean, this is America, but COME ON. Since then, I’ve stuck to my faded t-shirts from free events in college, and that one pair of yoga pants I bought at Gap Body seven years ago with a loyalty (thriftiness?) akin to Lassie.

I wasn’t truly surprised, then, when I heard about their newest ad campaign: the company has started printing the question “Who is John Galt?” on their tote bags. The quote is the opening line of Ayn Rand’s famous Atlas Shrugged, in which Rand preaches “objectivism,” a philosophy in which individuals act in their own best interest, damning altruism and all that other feel-good hoo-ha. A reference to Galt is a clear indication of belief in Rand’s uber-capitalistic beliefs, and Lululemon’s chairman proudly stated his support in a recent blog post, “Our bags are visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity. We all have a John Galt inside of us, cheering us on. How are we going to live lives we love?” Another gem, ““We are able to control our careers, where we live, how much money we make and how we spend our days through the choices we make. … We can choose to rise up and be great.” It’s these kinds of delusions of the privileged that lead to the economic problems we’re facing around the world. It must be nice to be able to control your career and how much money you make and where you live–but it’s certainly not a privilege that many are enjoying.

This clear support of an individualistic agenda is upsetting to me as a consumer, not only because of the ridiculous prices the company charges for clothing to sweat in, but because it’s in direct opposition to most of the main principles of yoga. Yoga, at least as I understand it, is meant to be relaxing and to be taken at one’s own pace. It is a way in which to appreciate our bodies and the world around us, to find peace in the every day and the good in our neighbors. It’s not about being the best or brightest. In fact, I’ve been admonished by multiple yoga instructors not to compare yourself to others, to only hold the poses until it feels right to you, to let your body decide what’s best.

Maybe this is all mumbo-jumbo to you, but I object to this kind of marketing, and I won’t be patronizing Lululemon any time soon (let’s pretend that I was actually able to afford it, for the sake of the argument). I’m all for incorporating literature into style, but this goes too far.

What do you think? Do you shop at Lululemon? Read Ayn Rand? I want to know what you think.

5 Responses Post a comment
  1. November 30, 2011

    I do not shop at Lululemon. Like you, I can’t justify paying those prices for clothes I’m going to sweat in. I’ve never read Atlas Shrugged, but I did read The Fountainhead and I was surprised at how a book I thought was regarded as serious literature was more like a trashy romance. I think Ayn Rand was an absolute nut and I can’t believe that of multitude of literary characters who could be considered strong or independent, Luluelemon chose this one to represent their philosophy. It seems a bit immature, really.

  2. December 1, 2011

    this is very thought-provoking and political! i have never stepped foot in a lululemon, although i did buy a pair of their socks one time at frugal fannies. hahahaha.


  3. Raquel permalink
    December 1, 2011

    I despise Ayn Rand and wish she were still alive so I could throw her down a well. Okay, not literally, but metaphorically. She was also a huge hypocrite. She was all, down with big government! Objectivism! Screw everyone else! Do what you want! Then she used Medicaid to get medical treatment and collected Social Security benefits. Ugh. I despise her, I despise her, I despise her.

    I’ve never gone into a Lululemon and never will because as you said–why pay so much money for clothes you’ll sweat in? I’ve had the same yoga pants for nearly a decade and will not replace them until they fall to pieces. Also, their CEO sounds like a prize horse’s ass. I’m not deluded/privileged enough to think that all it takes to “manifest” good things is telling yourself they’ll happen. Yes, setting concrete goals and working toward them using resources that are available to you makes it far more likely that they will happen, but it doesn’t guarantee it. Some people don’t have the same opportunities and resources and are inherently disadvantaged in different areas of life. You can control how you react to a situation, but you can rarely control the situation itself.

  4. December 2, 2011

    Ugh, ugh, ugh. I’ve never even heard of Lululemon, but those quotes made me want to puke and/or throw something, particularly the one about being able to choose how much money you make, where you live, etc. Uh, sure buddy. Keep living under the delusions that apparently a large portion of our country also lives under.

    This was very well-said though, especially with how it conflicts with yoga’s core beliefs. Really interesting; thanks for writing about it.

  5. December 14, 2011

    I have drooled over the lululemon clothing on racks and fellow-gym-goers many times. But once I got a whiff of lulu’s prices, I just kind of let it go. I treat my workout clothes the way you do: I have a super hard time spending even a dime on things I’m only going to sweat in. In fact, this Christmas I’ve asked my family for new things because the spandex shorts I still wear from high school are getting tears in the seams.
    I’ve never read any Rand, but I think I can get the gist of her themes, and I think you’re right. Yoga IS something to be done with no expectations. One of my favorite things about it is the lack of judgement in the room during class. You can’t try to be the best or the bendiest, you just must be yourself. Worrying about objectivism in a room like that is a waste of time: if you do it, you’re missing the point.
    All in all, lululemon can suck it.

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