This Lemon’s a $4.9 Billion Lulu

    Lululemon founder Chip Wilson says that the famous Lululemon name had nothing to do with either lemons or any gal named Lulu.

The truth is, he  sold an earlier company to a group of Asians at a premium in large part because the name of that company had a lot of l’s in it….For the venture that turned out to be Lululemon, he didn’t want to buck the trend of previous successes. L’s were a top priority, and Lululemon…. Branding experts may weep, but that’s what the man said.  I wouldn’t lie to you.

Wilson leveraged his knowledge of high-tech athletic fabrics into a multi-billion dollar publically traded company. Annual revenue runs around $450MM. His market timing – different forms of yoga appeal to both aging baby boomers as well as the six-pack ab crowd, was impecable. As one woman told me, “Even guys love Lululemon on women. You know, you don’t jiggle so much in Lululemon.”

Apparently, I’ve been living under a tortise shell,

because I was about the only person at the Women President’s Organization (WPO) annual conference in Vancouver in April who hadn’t heard of Lululemon. What’s causes me to feel even more sheepish about my savvy-lessness is that I’ve been a student of yoga more than 15 years, long before it was as popular as now.In keeping with how Wilson’s vision was prescient, my data point is that I recently rejoined a local YMCA, one I even went to when I was a toddler. I’d moved elsewhere for a fitness center about eight years ago largely because I thought they were being silly about yoga. Back then, management objected to OHM-ing, a traditional way to start a yoga class. Just too weird for the mainstream, I guess.  Today, there are more yoga classes there than any other form of excercise. Both men and OHM’s are common place these days at the Y. In fact, just try to find a spot at the Saturday 11 a.m. People are piled on top of people. With body parts in such close quarters as in the ever-increasingly popular yoga class, the iconic Lululemon trademark squiggle, is easily recongizable.

Having bought my first pair of Lululemon yoga pants as quickly as I could when I returned to Dallas a few weeks ago, I agree with my friend’s assessment of Lululemon fit. The high-tech stretchy fabrics do, indeed, emphasize sleekness while minimizing the jello-like quivering of less than perfect thighs.