Lululemon Chief Product Officer is Out as it Tries to Repair Sheer Pants Damage

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The self-inflicted brand damage continues at Lululemon as the company has announced the departure of its chief product officer, Sheree Waterson, effective April 15. Waterson had been with the company since 2008.

Lululemon called the change part of a “reorganization of our product organization,” but it is widely believed that Waterson’s exit is directly related to the company’s recent yoga pants recall.

Last month, as brandchannel reported, Lululemon was forced to recall its black Luon pants because the bottoms were too sheer, revealing areas of the body and causing potential embarrassment. Lululemon pulled the product from stores—effecting about 17 percent of its retail products—and its website and offered customers a full refund. The problem was not only a blow to an exceedingly popular lifestyle brand, it could also cost Lululemon around $60 million, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. In fact, analysts expected the company’s earnings and stock price to take a big hit.[more]

Originally, Lululemon blamed the defective pants on an overseas supplier, but on April 3, the company updated the explanation of the pants problem, stating:

“The production of luon is a complex process with a number of different inputs. Fabric is the key factor and while the fabric involved may have met testing standards, it was on the low end of Lululemon’s tolerance scale and we have found that our testing protocols were incomplete for some of the variables in fabric characteristics. When combined with subtle style changes in pattern and differences, the resulting end product had an unacceptable level of sheerness.”

The pants recall was just the latest hiccup for the brand and a breaking point for many of its cult followers. “The pants recall has been a challenge for the retailer, which has been able to sell $98 yoga pants and $64 tank tops because of its carefully cultivated reputation for quality. The chain also faced problems with bleeding garments last year, which it apologized for through a letter on its Facebook page in July,” Bloomberg notes

Lulu was largely chastized for its approach—or lackthereof—in handling the sheer pants problem once the news broke. The brand remained mum for quite a while on which styles were affected and made no public announcement on its social media pages regarding the “pullback” of product, instead choosing to inform its “guests” through a vague blog post on its website and directing customers to its GEC for questions and concerns. 

The poor circulation of information hasn’t stopped there though. Late last month, Jezebel reported that many customers were taking to social media to complain that, upon returning their sheer pants at a Lululemon store, they were asked to put the pants on and “bend over” so the associate could evaluate the sheerness.

While customers were busy embarassing themselves in-store, the brand wasn’t above poking fun at itself on April Fool’s Day. The company posted a video that pitched its new “from farm to studio” faux product line, “lululeather” yoga mats and pants. Well, at least these pants are unlikely to be of the see-through variety.

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