|By Ki Hackney
Not long ago, on my way to meet a friend for a quick bite before the ballet, I had a few minutes to spare and headed for Broadway to see what was new. At the northeast corner at 64th, I spotted the most colorful shop with lots of fit young men and women going in and out; then discovered it was not only easy on the eye, the rainbow of stacks and racks held some of the best fitness apparel I had ever seen; particularly yoga wear, with some dance- and running-specific gear added to the mix plus accessories. And these clothes are smart enough to easily transit from athletic to street or weekend wear.
Lululemon was born in an office that morphed into a yoga studio in the evening in order to pay the rent. As Liz Eustace, the community outreach liaison for the West Side store, says: “It had sort of a kitchen feel and the designers were in the studio.” Wilson took his cues from the yoga teachers and the customers, who were more than happy to offer their feedback. It developed from there.”
A little like one worldwide coffee purveyor we all know and love, lululemon has its own culture and vocabulary. For example, a select group of certified fitness instructors at studios throughout the city function as “ambassadors” and provide feedback on what students are looking for in their apparel as well as on lululemon designs. Salespersons are known as “educators,” which is partially true, because everyone on the staff is thoroughly trained and well informed, and many of them are instructors themselves. One educator, for example, is an amateur boxer; two more are dance instructors, but most are yoga students and, as part of the culture, the company covers the costs for yoga classes for all employees at yoga studios anywhere in Manhattan.
|Giving back is woven throughout the lululemon corporate culture. While the stores work to insure their employees’ wellbeing, they are determined to provide opportunities for and to inspire their customers. The company “manifesto,” that Wilson himself lives by, includes key elements of a healthy physical, mental and emotional life, and it is posted for customers to read at will.
Each of the 40 stores in Canada and 12 throughout the U.S. has multi-layered community bulletin boards with information about the company, special offers and class schedules from local area yoga studios as well as other participating studios throughout the city and announcements about events that lululemon is hosting. For example, the store offers free yoga classes for customers on Sunday evenings, warm-up and post-race activities for runners and events such as “Spring Cleaning” drives.
|A recent collection produced 40 bags of second-hand clothing, which the store donated to the West Side Housing Works. The Lincoln Center area store recently held hill-climbing and speed trainings in Central Park on Sunday mornings with stretching and discussions about things like shoes and what makes them fit well back at 64th and Broadway before the store opened for business. Since March, on Friday evenings, different musicians are invited to perform such as those from nearby Julliard. This month events are planned to honor Earth Day.
1928 Broadway at 64th Street
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