Lululemon Embarrassment: Media Training Advice for Fashion Companies
January 8, 2024

As a specialist provider of media training for fashion brands, we were interested to see that Chip Wilson, founder and former chairman of athleisure brand Lululemon, has once again been criticised for making controversial remarks.

“The definition of a brand is that you are not everything to everybody,” he told Forbes magazine recently. “You have got to be clear that you do not want certain customers coming in.” Almost immediately, a number of commentators and campaigners criticised Wilson for being “elitist” and for not understanding women – which is not great when so much of your target audience is female.

Reporting on the Issue

All media trainers who deliver our media interview training for fashion labels and clothing manufacturers are working journalists (operating under strict Non-Disclosure Agreements). So, they know how to report on a controversial issue like this. When they’re putting together a print article or a broadcast news report, journalists will look for commentators to add insights and provide soundbites. Defend or attack the comment – we don’t mind, although we’d prefer the latter as it stokes controversy. The most important thing, though, is that it sounds punchy, it uses natural language, and we get it quickly. You can provide the most beautifully crafted prose that expresses your thoughts, but if you send it to the journalist late, then it’s useless.

Among others, The Sunday Times piece on the latest Wilson controversy includes a quote from Hope Flynn, founder of Feed Me Female, an online community for young women. She said Wilson’s remarks “promotes the old-school ideal of what the perfect woman should be: stick thin. But it makes sense. This was a male-founded brand, so he doesn’t know what women need; he just knows how they want them to look.”

Previous Controversy

This latest comment is one of several controversial statements by Wilson who, after stepping down, criticised Lululemon’s diversity programme for being about a “whole diversity and inclusion thing” and dismissed the brand’s use of “unhealthy” and “sickly” people in its advertising for being “not inspirational.” He’s also commented on certain customers having thighs that caused its black yoga pants to wear through more quickly. Again, as our media trainers/journalists know, a trend or a pattern always adds to the appeal of this kind of story. “The latest example…” is a phrase you’ll often hear and see in media reports.

Many of the fashion brands we provide media training for want their spokespeople to feel more confident and in control when doing interviews with journalists and to see positive media coverage as a result of these interactions. We work closely with their PR companies and in-house media relations teams to help them to achieve this. But we also help them to prepare for controversies and difficult issues.

This might be a comment by a senior manager that creates negative coverage or an accusation of poor quality or service that runs riot on social media. We also advise clothing companies and fashion labels on dealing with sustainability issues and the supply chain.

Fashion Companies: How to Prepare for a Crisis

As we stress in our crisis communications training for fashion brands, being prepared for any problematic issue and ready to manage it quickly when it erupts is essential. You need to know about it, ideally before it hits the media, and you need to know who from your company will say what about it, as well as how and where they’re going to issue a statement. During our crisis workshops, we create realistic scenarios and then advise our course participants on how to work with their PR companies and in-house press teams to address these scenarios. Having given them some preparation time, we put them through authentic role-playing, press, radio, and TV interviews, after which we provide advice and recommendations.

Crisis Communications Training for Fashion Brands

But let’s end on a happy note, shall we? As well as crisis communications training for fashion brands, we help them communicate more effectively with the media on positive stories. Working closely with their media teams, we’ll help creative directors talk more confidently to journalists about the inspiration for their latest collections. We work with supply chain managers in the fashion industry who want to share their latest sustainability initiatives with the media. We recently worked with a big fashion chain that wanted to help their HR and career development teams promote their work to journalists.

Finally, we should add that we provide media training for luxury houses, high-street fashion labels and new entrants into this exciting, creative and everchanging market. Chip Wilson might have put his foot in it (and by “it”, we don’t mean Lululemon’s Wunder Train High-Rise Tight), but there are plenty of opportunities for positive coverage for clothing companies. That’s why we’re providing more and more media training for fashion brands looking to make the most of the media.

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