Lululemon is big on buzzwords. The Canadian yoga-wear company refers to its salespeople as “educators,” customers as “guests.” The website offers a mission statement, a manifesto, and a list of core values that includes the following: “When I die, I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandmother—not screaming like all the passengers in her car.”
The joke is meant to illustrate the kooky side of the company—it of the un-yogic name and famously flattering stretch pants. In its first fully equipped Atlanta location, Lululemon occupies a construction-obscured storefront down the street from the Roxy (a temporary home until the Streets of Buckhead project is complete). The mood is bright, even on the eve of Black Friday, when a water-main break left staffers scrambling. “I’ve never had a job that I’ve loved before,” said key leader Shaina Horrell as she reracked rows of tank tops against the drone of an industrial-sized fan. On the wall, employees have charted out their personal goals for the next ten years. Next to these soul-baring sheets of paper is an eraser board on which customers leave notes about the clothes they’ve tried on—sports bras and cropped pants, a “To-From” line of tees and pullovers.
“Feedback” is the most important word and a company hallmark since 1998, when sportswear entrepreneur Chip Wilson launched the line out of a Vancouver yoga studio. Then, customers tested his products nightly during class. Twelve years and some 100 stores later, Lululemon relies on eraser boards, a website link, and a network of “ambassadors”—gym owners and yoga instructors who tout the brand in their communities—to deliver feedback. These efforts have resulted in small design tweaks (adding a zipper pocket to towels), major technical achievements (a magical, butt-lifting combination of Lycra and nylon), and defining business decisions; last July, Lululemon launched a men’s and women’s run line after customers reported they were wearing their yoga gear to go running. Now, says CEO Christine Day, “we can’t keep our running skirts in stock.” The run line features moisture-wicking, odor-repelling fabric and, like its yoga counterpart, looks good from behind.
3096 Roswell Road, 404-814-1173, lululemon.com
Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein