Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon Athletica, producer of women’s sports clothing, raised eyebrows and sparked ire last year when he blamed customer quality complaints on women’s body types, has finally stepped down from the company’s board.
Problems began last year when a number of complaints popped up about the company’s expensive yoga pants. Customers argued that the $100 pants were too sheer, to the point of being see-through. Only a month or two later, more customers came forward and reported issues like pilling, holes, and busted seams. The volume of complaints was enough to cause the company’s stocks to drop.
Lululemon’s response was less than ideal, as summed up by a telling Business Insider headline from November: “Lululemon Claims Quality Issues Are Not Widespread As Customer Complaints Keep Piling Up.” Company spokespeople insisted that the complaints were from a few individuals and were not representative of the larger customer base, despite public evidence to the contrary.
It only got worse from there. In an interview on Bloomberg Television’s Street Smart, Wilson said that “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work” for Lululemon pants, and added that “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there.”
The gaffe resulted in Wilson resigning as chairman of the company’s board, but he remained on the board as a member until this month, when he stepped down from the board altogether.
Wilson founded the Canadian activewear company in 1998, growing the brand to more than 250 stores. But even the company’s fervently loyal customer base was tested by the yoga pants fiasco. Whether his decision to step down is related to that incident is up for speculation.
Wilson himself says it’s just the right time for him to step down. He attributes the decision to wanting more time to help his wife and son with their new cashmere clothing line, Kit and Ace.
Wilson will still maintain 10.3 million shares, or 7.8%, of Lululemon, though those shares are worth a little less following Wilson’s announcement. Lululemon shares fell to $65.33 in morning trading, a drop of 91 cents.