PhilaU Performance Apparel Expert Mark Sunderland on Lululemon Recall

Photo credit: © Pat Young/lululemon athletica 2011

Mark Sunderland, PhilaU textile engineer and performance apparel expert, said this week’s highly publicized recall of Lululemon’s basic yoga pants is “unusual,” given the firm’s reputation and place in the active lifestyle apparel market.

Nonetheless, social media sites and news pundits are having a field day with the recall of the popular yoga pants, which, it turns out, are a bit too see-through.

“95% of men are strongly opposed to the Lululemon recall” one Tweet reads.

“Lululemon Vows To Get To The Bottom Of Its See-Through Pants Problem,” NPR’s Mark Memmott wrote.

Behind the tongue-in-cheek comments, however, is some serious business.  The recall affects 17 percent of all women’s pants sold by the popular yoga retailer, Bloomberg reported.

Sunderland said there could be a number of reasons the pants turned out too sheer, including using yarn that’s too fine for the machine gauge, too few stitches per inch, poor yarn quality, problems with the dyeing and finishing processes and lack of recovery in the material after being stretched.

But the bottom line, he said, is that there was breakdown somewhere in the supply chain and quality control in the design, material selection and manufacture of the firm’s signature yoga pants.

“I think in the short term it’s going to hurt Lululemon because there are many choices in the marketplace and lots of competition,” Sunderland said. “While their customers are very brand loyal, the black yoga pant is a staple in the industry—everybody sells it at a multiplicity of price points.”

Lululemon posted a blog on the firm’s web site March 18 that acknowledged some of its black luon women’s bottoms “didn’t meet our high standards.  The materials used in construction were the same, but the coverage was not, resulting in increased sheerness.”

Recalls of performance apparel is unusual and may be more so given Lululemon’s reputation and cost, Sunderland said. “Lululemon is at the pinnacle of the culture when it comes to yoga and performance apparel.”

Stay tuned for more, er, transparency, on this issue.

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