Chip Wilson considers return to Lululemon's board
Lululemon founder Chip Wilson is pondering a return to the board of the athleisure wear maker’s board. His goal is to be on a public board by 2019 with his first choice being Lululemon, according to an interview with the Financial Post. Retail Dive’s requests for comment from Lululemon and Wilson weren’t immediately returned.
Wilson's remaining stake in the company gives him the power to nominate a member of the board, and his current pick's tenure is set to end next year, according to the report.
Wilson stepped down from the board in February 2015, telling The New York Times that he felt he had "kind of been in prison." Months before that he had he publicly criticized the board, accusing two members of being overly focused on short-term growth and later cut his stake in the company in half.
Wilson has been quite vocal in the past when he didn’t like how things were going at the brand he founded, even after he stepped down as CEO. Lululemon continued to clash with its founder after a series of embarrassing remarks about women and specifically who could and couldn’t wear its yoga pants.
It’s a stage that many innovative retailers face, when the company wants to ignite growth and suddenly finds the brash, out-of-the-box visionary stance of its founder (along with often more controversial behavior) — the qualities that launched the success — as a liability. It’s happened at American Apparel, Best Buy and Apple.
It’s possible that Wilson would like to regain some control at Lululemon. Founders don’t always go quietly, and Steve Jobs proved that it could be done, to the benefit of the company. Wilson reportedly hates the term "athleisure," and uses the term "streetnic" to describe his notion of stylish activewear made with "technical" performance fabric.
And he has plenty still to say about how the company — despite its stellar results in recent quarters — is missing the boat.
"Lululemon is generally not innovating but only adding fashion to past innovations. This inevitably leads to a low-margin commodity fashion business," he wrote on his website. "The board has strengthened Lululemon’s back-end to provide for superb operational stability. But if the number one creative hire is twenty years too late to the party, something is wrong. Lululemon lacks leadership with the ability to interview and hire superior creative people to differentiate its west coast branding position."
Wilson may also be creating some buzz to boost sales of his new book. "Little Black Stretch Pants: The Unauthorized Story of Lululemon" is being billed as a tell-all and sports a close-up of Wilson in Lululemon pants on the back cover. While Wilson has a notion of who shouldn’t wear those pants, he certainly believes he can.
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