IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Lululemon's Lunar New Year ad with Michelle Yeoh comes under scrutiny after founder’s anti-diversity comments

Asian viewers said founder Chip Wilson's controversial statements have put a damper on the brand's recent Lunar New Year ad.
Michelle Yeoh in an ad for lululemon.
Michelle Yeoh in an ad for Lululemon.lululemon via YouTube

Lululemon’s Lunar New Year ad featuring Michelle Yeoh is being criticized after the company’s founder’s negative comments about “diversity and inclusion.”

The ad features Yeoh speaking Mandarin and performing the traditional martial art Wing Chun against a backdrop of mountains and rivers in China. While some commenters admired the beauty of the movements and the scenery, others questioned the context after the controversial statement from the brand’s founder and former CEO, Chip Wilson. 

“Wait ... is this an actual joke considering the message from your founder,” one person commented under the ad on YouTube. 

“So Lululemon realized how important Asians and their money are for their business,” another person said on Instagram. 

In a recent interview with Forbes, Wilson said he disapproved of Lululemon’s “whole diversity and inclusion thing.”

“They’re trying to become like the Gap, everything to everybody,” Wilson said. “And I think the definition of a brand is that you’re not everything to everybody. … You’ve got to be clear that you don’t want certain customers coming in.”

Wilson is still the largest single shareholder of Lululemon, but he resigned from the board in 2015, according to a statement from the company.

“Chip Wilson does not speak for Lululemon, and his comments do not reflect our company views or beliefs,” the company said. “Chip has not been involved with the company since his resignation from the board in 2015 and we are a very different company today.”

Lululemon also came under fire in 2020 after an employee posted a T-shirt design featuring a bat in a Chinese takeout container alongside the phrase “no thanks.”

Critics called the shirt racist, especially as reports of attacks against Asian Americans grew amid the pandemic, which started in China.

“At Lululemon, our culture and values are core to who we are, and we take matters like this extremely seriously,” a spokesperson said at the time. “The image and the post were inappropriate and inexcusable and we do not tolerate this behaviour.”

For more from NBC Asian America, sign up for our weekly newsletter.