After customers complained that a batch of the company's signature yoga pants were too transparent, Lululemon tried to make a scapegoat out of the Taiwanese company that manufactures the pants. Bad idea. Said supplier now says the pants were no different than any other batch. The Eclat Textile Company, whose clients include everyone from Gap to Under Armour, said Tuesday that Lululemon had signed off on the shipment, suggesting that Lululemon made the whole thing up. "All shipments to Lululemon went through a certification process which Lululemon had approved," Eclat's chief executive Roger Lo told The Wall Street Journal. "All the pants were manufactured according to the requirements set out in the contract with Lululemon." Ladies and gentlemen, we have a yoga pants scandal on our hands.
So which one is it? Did Eclat make a bad batch of $100 yoga pants, or did Lululemon just design transparent $100 yoga pants and milk the market for as long as it could? It's really hard to say. When Lo talked to the press, he said that Lululemon hadn't contacted his company about the recall — which is kind of weird since Lululemon effectively blamed Eclat for screwing up the "level of sheerness" during the manufacturing process. (It's worth pointing out that Lululemon also said it was working closely with the manufacturer "to understand what happened during the period this fabric was made.") It's possible that there's a third party, some company that supplied Eclat with the fabric for the pants, clearing it somewhat from the blame. But at this point, this particular incident really is a frustrating finger-pointing match that's left Lululemon out about $20 million in lost sales and a whole lot yogis out of high-priced pants.
Let's get real about this stretchy trousers tale, though. It's pretty obvious that the supplier gains nothing by saddling the blame, however the perhaps unexpected media circus that gathered around this see-through yoga pants scandal highlighted a number of questionable incidents in recent Lululemon history. As a Credit Suisse analyst pointed out in a note to clients that this is Lululemon's "fourth quality control issue in the last year." Not counting this latest debacle, two out of the other three issues involved the sheerness of its fabrics. Clearly, something is up.
Along these lines, other analysts suggested that Lululemon needs to spend more time in Taiwan to make sure the manufacturers' work is up to snuff. No matter whose at fault in the growing list Lululemon's quality control issues, it can't hurt to get to the root of the problem. Then maybe next time, someone will spot the bad batch, before they ship $20 million worth of transparent yoga pants around the world.