Lululemon co-founder steps down in wake of 'women's bodies' remark

Chip Wilson
YouTube / YouTube

Lululemon co-founder Chip Wilson, who recently issued a formal apology for remarks he made about how "some women's bodies just don't actually work" for his company's yoga pants, has stepped down as chairman.

Lululemon announced late Monday that they named Michael Casey as the new Chairman of the Board.

They also announced that  Laurent Potdevin, who most recently served as president of TOMS shoes, will be the new chief executive. He will replace Christine Day, who announced in June her plans to resign.

Earlier this fall, in a video posted on YouTube and on Lululemon’s Facebook page, Wilson said he was sorry for comments he made on Bloomberg TV about a batch of too-sheer Lululemon yoga pants that had transformed some women’s workouts into unintentional peep shows.

Wilson triggered a media firestorm when he told Bloomberg’s Trish Regan on Nov. 5 that "some women's bodies just don't actually work" for Lululemon’s yoga pants.

“It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time and how they much they use it,” said Wilson, the company's former chief executive officer.

In his apology video, Wilson looked directly into the camera and said, “I’m sad. I’m really sad. I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions."

The damage was done for many former customers, some of whom complained that Wilson failed to address women he may have been offended. 

Some critics formed an online petition demanding a more sincere apology and calling on Lululemon to start making yoga clothes in larger sizes.

Lululemon has had to fight off unwanted publicity since last March, when it was forced to recall some of its popular black yoga pants for being too see-through. Although the materials used in the pants were the same, the coverage was not, “resulting in a level of sheerness in some of our women’s black Luon bottoms that fall short of our very high standards,” the company said in a press release at the time.

The pants made up about 17 percent of all women’s bottoms sold by the chain, the company said.

Last month, an analyst at Sterne Agee singled out Chip Wilson in a note he wrote to clients about Lululemon. He said the company risked losing current and future customers because of recent controversy.

"We believe that the core Lululemon customer has been alienated and will begin to look for yoga and active-wear pants from the likes of Nike, Under Armour, Athleta and numerous other brands," analyst Sam Poser wrote, before downgrading the company’s stock.

Wilson has been chairman and the largest individual shareholder of Lululemon since he founded the Canadian company in 1998 after drawing inspiration from a yoga class. He will formally step down as chairman before the company’s annual meeting in June, but will retain a board seat. 

Ian Sager contributed reporting to this story.