• Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice

    by  • 11/18/2007 • Vancouver • 0 Comments

    Okay, the basics of the story:

    • Lululemon (Yoga clothing company) makes healthful woo woo claims for clothing
    • LLL plays on sustainable production, claiming seaweed makes up 24% of fabric
    • LLL gets slap on wrist from textile labeling, ordered to remove unproven, untested medical claims
    • LLL claims of anti-stress and amino acids absorbtion are removed from website
    • LLL continues to maintain that this new line is made sustainably from seaweed

    Before they were ordered to remove the health claims (thank you Google cache), and on the web page for one of the shirts listed as being made with the VitaSea ‘technology’, the single removed line was “Derived from seaweed it is antibacterial, moisturizing & de-stressing for the skin“. If this product actually contains seaweed and is more sustainable and consumes less energy in production than cotton or acrylics, more power to you, but you don’t have to lie to sell something like that to a target market that’s already into saving the earth. You don’t have to go for the woo-woo…

    Way to go, little Vancouver based yoga company, making it big in the US with going public working so well on the stock market, and all the news attention that you’re getting in big papers like the Wall Street Journal; even if the news is about your lies and deceipt.

    One of its lines is called VitaSea, and the company says it is made with seaweed. The fabric, according to product tags, “releases marine amino acids, minerals and vitamins into the skin upon contact with moisture.”

    Lululemon, which has received positive media coverage for its fabrics, also says the VitaSea clothing, made from seaweed fiber supplied by a company called SeaCell, reduces stress and provides anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating and detoxifying benefits.

    Apparently it’s not just vitamins and minerals and de-stressing magic in the clothes; apparently there’s not even any seaweed in it. The NY Times presented the evidence of testing that revealed no seaweed vitamins or minerals at all in a sample shirt. Lululemon Head Nutbar stated simply “If you actually put it on and wear it, it is different from cotton, That’s my only test of it.”

    When asked about Lululemon’s product tags and the claims about vitamins and minerals, he said, “That’s coming from the manufacturer. If you feel the fabric, it feels a lot different.”

    SeaCell is owned by a German company called Smartfiber. Smartfiber provides scientific documents on its Web site about the effects of the SeaCell fibers, but it also says on its site that SeaCell assumes no liability for that information’s accuracy.

    From that website:

    The fact that this marine plant is rich in trace elements has been well known since the times of Chinese medicine, and seaweed has also been proved to protect the skin and have anti-inflammatory properties, Furthermore, the structure of SeaCell facilitates the active exchange of substances between the fiber and the skin – nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin E are released by the natural body moisture when the fibre is worn, thereby creating a complete sense of well-being.

    This is like the stories that Penta tells, or any homeopathic potion vendor tells. They’re lies that are based entirely in guesses and unfounded promises.

    Customers seem to all react the same, when they are provided with information that says that they aren’t able to absorb minerals from the fabric. Do they react in shock and disgust at the promises made by their yoga clothing provider? Do they look for an address to send their complaints? Do they swear to get answers from the company? No, they shrug and carry on. Have we been invaded by pods from outer space? The same people who question Big Pharma are willing to accept anything that their corporate yoga overlords tell them and blissfully forgive them when they tell lies.

    According to a CBC report on this, Lululemon is disputing the New York Times’ findings, and area apparently only altering tagging and promotional material in their Canadian stores. American buyers may be lucky enough to be able to buy the special amino acid versions still!

    “We are altering the labels on our VitaSea products in our Canadian stores, in cooperation with the Competition Bureau of Canada, to remove references to the therapeutic and performance attributes of the VitaSea technology.”

    Other stories on this:

    the company was forced by Canada’s Competition Bureau to remove all claims alleging healthful benefits from its VitaSea line of clothing

    Globe and Mail expresses doubts

    World’s worst editorial goes to University of Western Ontario’s unnamed writer. Seriously, what does this mean: “While the unfortunate byproduct of this is skepticism leading to a greater acceptance of lies and equivocation in our daily lives, these are questions to be addressed alongside the systems under which we live, for good or ill.” There is a moderately amusing cartoon here though.


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