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Lululemon’s Bad PR is Great for Competitors

Image: Facebook/Wearcoryvines

Image: Facebook/Wearcoryvines

In the past week and a half, Lululemon has been facing an avalanche of negative press, related to reports of "pilling" in newly-purchased yoga pants. The activewear company's CEO Chip Wilson didn't help matters when he said, in a video interview with Bloomberg TV, that Lululemon might not be responsible for the quality issues.

"Quite frankly, some women's bodies actually just don't work for [the pants]. They don't work for some women's bodies," said Wilson. "It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there, and over a period of time how much they use it."

We're not surprised that some women are taking their business elsewhere. 

And that's where startup Cory Vines comes in. A relative newcomer to the athletics apparel space (earlier this year, Forbes called it "the Warby Parker of activewear"), the e-commerce site is reporting a staggering sales boost in the wake of Lululemon's recent batch of controversies. 

A Cory Vines representative told me that the company has seen a 400% increase in leggings sales (compared to the weekly average) since November 1, when the "pilling" issues were first being reported. The company's leggings retail for about $45, which is less than half the price of a pair from Lululemon. 

I asked CEO Daniel Lieberman why he thinks Lululemon is facing all these quality control issues and what Cory Vines was doing differently, in terms of production and sourcing. 

“I have no firsthand knowledge of what’s causing Lululemon’s issues, but I can make a few guesses. The original see-through problem may have happened because of a break in their supply chain in Taiwan, and the pilling problem may have happened because they tried to fix the see-through issue by using a heavier fabric,” Lieberman said over email. “We source our leggings in Canada and do all of the manufacturing here, so we have exceptional control over the whole process. So far, that has paid off for us with a return rate of less than 1% and – thankfully – compliments about our quality rather than complaints.”

Related: An Open Letter from Canada: We’re Sorry for Lululemon’s Body Discrimination