The founder of Vancouver, B.C.-based Lululemon aims to outfit yogis all over
Hip-hugging, stretchy pants and tiny tanks emblazoned with the Lululemon Athletica logo have become so trendy that it’s easy to forget how recently yoga clothes came into vogue. But Lululemon founder Chip Wilson recalls his first yoga class nine years ago, when, he says, “people were sweating, everything was binding, and you could see people pulling at their clothes.” Yoga hadn’t yet gone mainstream ― there were only six people in the class― but Wilson, who had previously founded an international snowboard gear and clothing company, recognized a wave about to crest.
In 1998, Lululemon’s first store opened in Vancouver, B.C.’s Kitsilano neighborhood, which Wilson considers “the health and athletic center of the world” ― it’s home to more than 20athletic stores on Fourth Avenue alone. Now he runs 35 stores worldwide, but to him, the Kitsilano store still represents the heart and soul of Lululemon.
In summer, well-known instructor Eoin Finn teaches power-yoga classes at the Showboat, a theater stage at Kits Beach, and now one of Vancouver’s “in” places to work out. For Wilson, it’s like therapy. “The ocean and the wind are so fresh, and the view fromKits Beach is unrivaled worldwide. It feels like I’m on vacation all the time.”
Relaxed as he may be, though, he always has his eyes on the prize. “We want to be the clothing of choice for athletes participating in the 2010 Olympics that’ll be in Vancouver.”
At the rate Wilson’s going, that’s not a far-fetched goal.