Let's make a play date for two rogue business executives.
Judging by their ideas about who should be buying their companies' clothes, they are bound to be besties.
Chip Wilson, co-founder of Lululemon Athletica, maker of $98 yoga pants for thighs that don't touch, meet Michael Jeffries, chief executive of Abercrombie & Fitch, maker of $30 black lace "bralettes" for trendy tweens and teens.
Wilson surprised a few potential customers with his recent remarks about the company's unintentionally see-through yoga pants and problematic fabric: "Some women's bodies just don't work for (our pants)," Wilson said to Bloomberg TV anchor Trish Regan. "It's about the rubbing through the thighs," Wilson said, and "how much pressure is there."
You've ruled out the female population with thighs that touch, Wilson, but you may have hit upon the exact demographic Jeffries is courting!
Jeffries admitted in a 2006 Salon interview that the brand goes after "cool" kids -- attractive and slim -- to wear their clothes, and shuns the rest: "A lot of people don't belong (in our clothes), and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely," he said.
That's putting an awful lot of stock in popular waifs, guys. And the message to girls is profoundly dangerous. Numerous news reports have documented the efforts of some girls and women wanting to achieve a "thigh gap," a space between your legs when you are standing. Pictures of underweight celebrities sporting this gap or jutting hipbones are used as "thinspiration" on message boards and Tumblrs.
I have a difficult time imagining how images associated with starving or seriously ill people can be sexy. But there is a vulnerable population for whom body image has become so warped, this is an ideal.
Both these executives can feel proud of themselves for promoting the same dangerous and unhealthy message.
Thankfully, the skinnier market share has slimmed their stock prices. Abercrombie reported earlier this month a double-digit drop in quarterly comparable store sales and more than halved its full-year, adjusted profit forecast. Maybe there's room for Lulu to squeeze itself into that profit gap, after all. But the once red-hot, premium-priced yoga apparel has also cooled in light of the company's recall of nearly a quarter of its black Luon yoga pants. The stock price has fallen more than 8 percent in the past month.
It's questionable the extent to which CEO foot-in-mouth disease affects the bottom line. But it doesn't take an official boycott to tarnish a brand. A continuous drip of offensive and absurd comments from the leaders of a company can be enough to change that intangible perception of "exclusive" to "ew" in consumers' minds.
And as parents who care about the way companies market to our children, we can embrace the power of our pocketbooks.
Wilson's latest remarks may have further alienated a core constituency.
DeAnna Shires, a yoga instructor in the Dallas area, used to partner with the local Lulu store when it opened in her area in 2008. The studio she then owned served a diverse population, with many larger clients and those with injuries, she said.
"I was told from someone within (Lulu) that they didn't think my clientele was who they were looking for," she said. Shires stopped buying their clothes after that, and recently started speaking out for others in the yoga community to quit the brand, as well.
"If you are teaching acceptance and community ... are you OK with finding another pair of pants that are more in line with what you're teaching?" she said.
Oh, those pesky yogis with their "yoga values" and "community building," blah blah blah.
Ignore her, guys.
You carry on with your unabashed marketing to the "right" body type in the "right" crowd.
Jeffries, after all, made no apologies when his stores carried thong underwear with "eye candy" written across them for 10-year-old girls.
Not to be outdone, Wilson has blogged that "In the early 1970s, 'the pill' came into being ... Women's lives changed immediately. Men's lives didn't change however and they continued to search for a stay-at-home wife like their mothers. Men did not know how to relate to the new female. Thus came the era of divorces."
That's some interesting marketing.
Do let us know how you get along. We can't imagine a pair more deserving of one another.