Vancouver-based Lululemon launched in 1998 as a yoga-inspired activewear brand. Its founder, Chip Wilson, discovered yoga, as well as the large, untapped market for garments tailored to the low-intensity practice of yoga. The brand’s high-quality yoga pants became a cult item. Many women found them so comfortable that they wore the pants out of the yoga studio and into everyday life, which helped give birth to what has been known as athleisure, which involves garments that are worn for both athletic endeavors as well as casual leisure activities.
In 2013, Lululemon launched Whitespace, an innovation lab where scientists can conduct primary research about human movement, and develop new products. While most sportswear companies focus on understanding the physics of human movement, Lululemon is particularly interested in how subjectivity figures into the equation. For instance, Whitespace’s scientists have found that some people like the feeling of sweat on their bodies, while other people do not, which should influence whether or not Lululemon recommends moisture-wicking garments. In 2018, the lab announced that it has developed a way to identify each person’s unique pattern of movement when they walk or run. Lululemon has begun installing machines in stores to help customers better understand their own patterns of motion, and what products are best suited to their bodies.
Over the last two decades, the brand has grown into a global phenomenon. Wilson took the company public in 2005. The company generated more than $2.6 billion in revenue in 2017 and now has more than 400 stores around the world. In 2018, former Sephora executive Calvin McDonald was appointed the brand’s CEO.