is lululemon fast fashion

Is Lululemon Fast Fashion? Is it Ethical and Sustainable?

by jacky chou
Updated on

Activewear calls for more sturdy, durable, and comfortable fabrics, and Lululemon, a prominent name in the athleisure apparel market, emerges as a contender that focuses on these ideals. But is Lululemon fast fashion?

No. Lululemon offers high-end activewear, which has become a favorite among many wellness enthusiasts, including celebrities. Its high-quality apparel, high price point, and non-trend-driven products don’t make it a fast fashion brand. However, Lululemon is among the biggest players in unethical and unsustainable fashion practices.

This article explores Lululemon’s identity and operations to evaluate its ethics and sustainability. Let’s get started.

What is Lululemon?

Lululemon Athletica is a Canadian athletic clothing company founded in 1998 by Chip Wilson. Its collection consists of yoga-inspired activewear, including leggings, tanks, sports bras, joggers, shorts, sweaters, undergarments, and jackets. It also has an excellent selection of bags, hair accessories, water bottles, yoga mats, and personal care products, such as dry shampoo and deodorant.

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This athleisure label is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. It has over 29,000 employees and sells its products online and through its 574 physical stores located in 17 countries globally. Lululemon’s products are manufactured in factories located across China and 26 other countries, including Canada, the U.S., Taiwan, Indonesia, Israel, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Peru, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.

Lululemon is famous for its most-hyped ‘buttery soft’ range of leggings made from its fastest-drying fabrics, Luxtreme and Everlux, and the brand’s overall product range costs at least $25. Lululemon also ships products to 78 countries, but new locations are added regularly.

Is Lululemon Fast Fashion?

No, Lululemon is not fast fashion. Its clothes are not trend-driven or disposable, meaning they won’t go out of style quickly. Lululemon also has a strong focus on quality, and its products are not cheap, so they’re usually bought by consumers who love to invest in luxurious activewear.

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However, Lululemon doesn’t have great sustainability and ethical standards. It follows some features of the fast fashion business model, including the use of high-impact materials and sweatshop manufacturing. The brand is accused of greenwashing because most of its products are manufactured in countries offering cheap labor, with high levels of hazardous chemical emissions in their factories. This is typical of fast fashion brands like Bershka, Forever 21, and Fashion Nova.

So while Lululemon is not entirely a fast fashion brand, you should still steer clear of it and opt for more ethical and sustainable brands.

How Ethical is Lululemon?

Lululemon claims to be dedicated to sustainability but does the brand really put its best foot forward for the planet, people, or animals? How ethical is Lululemon?

First, Lululemon’s factories are not fair trade certified by labor standards. Therefore, there is no guarantee that employees’ safety and health, living wages, or other crucial labor rights are taken care of. In fact, there have been reports in the past claiming that workers in its Bangladesh factory making its signature leggings are not paid decent living wages and are subjected to workplace harassment and physical violence.

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Additionally, Lululemon shows no concrete evidence that it implements responsible practices to support diversity and inclusion in its supply chain. The Fashion Transparency Index 2023 gave it a score of 51-60%, which is not very positive, but better than most players in the fashion industry. Plus, it has a Vendor Code of Ethics set by the ILO (International Labor Organization) that all its suppliers and subcontractors should maintain. Still, there’s no assurance that its supply chain is actually adhering to these standards.

Furthermore, the company sources its final production stage from countries with a high risk of labor abuse, like Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, and Vietnam. What’s more, Lululemon is connected with getting cotton from Xinjiang, a region of China that’s at risk of forcing Uyghur laborers to work under deplorable conditions, and the brand has taken insufficient actions to remediate the situation.

a) Workers’ Well-being Initiatives

On the brighter side, Lululemon has started putting efforts into workers’ well-being through supporting projects on health, meditation, and education initiatives. Lululemon offers fitness classes for its staff members. The company also provides meditation spaces in many locations where workers can take time for mindfulness practice. This strategy encourages a healthy work atmosphere and assists in advancing employees’ psychological health.

The company also offers numerous educational opportunities, including leadership training programs and workshops on enhancing skills relevant to specific organizational roles. Lululemon hopes to help its staff achieve professional success and increase their job satisfaction by investing in these employee education initiatives.

b) Does Lululemon Use Child Labor?

Lululemon states that it has a zero-tolerance for forced or child labor. However, the brand doesn’t own all its production units. It mainly sources apparel and accessories from developing countries where people as young as 15 are eligible to work, and labor is cheap. Therefore, it’s quite unclear if Lululemon benefits from child labor.

c) Lululemon’s Animal Welfare Policies 

Lululemon’s animal welfare policies have room for improvement. While it doesn’t use leather, exotic animal skin and hair, fur, or angora, many of the company’s products are made from down feathers and wool.

Lululemon claims to source its animal-derived materials responsibly, where the Responsible Down Standard accredits the down feathers, but it shows no evidence of having a policy in place to minimize animal suffering. Also, the wool the company uses is not certified; hence you can’t tell about their origin. Finally, Lululemon traces some animal products to their first stage of production.

How Sustainable is Lululemon?

Lululemon is a leading activewear brand dedicated to active sustainability. It has set and implemented sustainability initiatives, but the brand is still not completely sustainable.

Lululemon uses only a small proportion of sustainable materials, like recycled materials, modal, and lyocell. Nonetheless, the company heavily relies on toxic synthetic materials such as lycra, virgin nylon, and spandex to create its bestselling leggings. Lululemon’s sweatshirts and tees are also made from conventional cotton, despite the existence of more sustainable alternatives.

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On its sustainability page, Lululemon talks of implementing ways to improve environmental impact. It plans to introduce ‘resell and repair’ programs by 2025 to reduce clothing landfills. Moreover, it has set science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its supply chain and owned operations by 60% in 2030, but it’s unclear if it’s on track to meet its target.

Additionally, there is no evidence that the company has taken meaningful actions to eliminate or reduce hazardous chemicals or has policies on water usage reduction in its production process. Plus, Lululemon uses plastic packaging for shipping finished products out of its distribution centers.

Lululemon is a member of The Climate Group’s RE100 and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which are third-party evaluators of ethical and sustainable fashion. Therefore, this is a sign that Lululemon strives to take steps to walk the path of sustainability. The brand also plans to achieve 100% renewable energy across its North American factories, offices, and stores. This will significantly reduce their carbon footprint and positively contribute towards global efforts against climate change.

Frequently Asked Questions on Is Lululemon Fast Fashion

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1. Does Lululemon contribute to fast fashion?

No, Lululemon is not a fast fashion brand. The company focuses on producing high-quality apparel and has implemented some sustainability initiatives, such as using eco-friendly fabrics. However, it still manufactures products from high-risk countries.

2. What impact does Lululemon have on the environment?

Lululemon has taken various steps to minimize its environmental impact, including the adoption of renewable energy sources and using recycled materials. It also invests in workers’ well-being through education initiatives and health programs. However, Lululemon’s track on reducing hazardous chemicals and greenhouse gas emissions is still unclear.

3. What type of Fashion is Lululemon?

Lululemon specializes in sports and activewear apparel for running, yoga, training, and other wellness activities. The brand’s products are stylish yet functional, emphasizing performance and comfort. For super comfort and breathability, you should check Lululemon's sizing guide and pick your perfect fit. The brand also promotes wellness by offering free yoga classes at its stores.

Conclusion on Is Lululemon Fast Fashion

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Is Lululemon fast fashion? Lululemon distinguishes itself from traditional fast fashion brands that produce apparel of low quality and low prices based on changes in fashion trends. However, the brand needs improvement in its sustainability approach and ethical production. Nonetheless, the company has made some notable sustainable initiatives, such as using eco-friendly materials. Also, the brand’s partnership with ILO and Sustainable Apparel Coalition indicates their efforts to walk the path of more sustainable and ethical production.

Suppose you’re passionate about fashion and want to make a difference in the apparel industry. In that case, sustainable brands that offer the same quality as Lululemon in a more eco-conscious and ethical way exist.

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jacky chou


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