We had the amazing opportunity to visit the headquarters of LuluLemon today (11th February) in the context of the business week.
The premises are located in Kitstiliano area in a modern building of four floors. The first department we visited was the design department. We saw the process of creation with people working on prototypes and planning the next collection of 2015. There are three design spaces, each one is dedicated to one customer segment: women, men and kids/teens. Thus employees design clothes only for one type of customers, depending on what they like to design. If an employee is passionate by designing clothes for men thus he or she will focus on doing that.
During the design process, the sourcing department is also involved and we could meet them too. They look for production factories, find the raw materials and deal with cost negotiation. To realize this process they travel quarterly trough the world to meet their suppliers and the factories they work with, mainly in China, Indonesia or Turkey. LuluLemon favors trips even if they are costly because they think it is really important to meet people face to face and to not just communicate with them by emails or phone calls. This allows Lululemon to build strong relationships with its suppliers. Then the prototyping process is only located in Vancouver headquarters.
The visit carried on with the discovery of the scientific laboratories (White Spaces) where prototypes are thoroughly and tested before being produced. In these laboratories, human testers spend time wearing the new clothes under different situations (doing yoga, running, cycling) in order to give feedbacks concerning the fit. It is essential for LuluLemon to accurately test its clothes in order to make sure that the quality is up to their expectations. The goal of the White Space is to really understand the product in context.
The tour ended by a discussion with three employees (working either in innovation or recruitment and management of retail stores) and we learnt that LuluLemon is really oriented towards innovation since it has a team working on long term projects (3 to 10 years) to find what could be relevant for the future, either by developing an incremental innovation or a disruptive innovation.
More generally, during the whole visit we could also learn about the values and the culture of LuluLemon. The strongest strength of LuluLemon is to consider all its employees as entrepreneurs. For example store managers are considered as store owners and have very strong incentives to perform their work. Another strong value is collectiveness: share with and educate people. These values apply on headquarters and also on stores. For instance, it is very important for them to spread this particular way of thinking; their vision is to “elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness”.
LuluLemon is currently distributed in North America, Australia and New Zealand; its hot spots are for example Los Angeles and Miami. They want to develop the business globally, the company will soon open a new store in Paris!
It was interesting to see how a big Canadian company is run in comparison with the start-ups which we visited at the beginning of the week. As start-ups, Lululemon needs different backgrounds and skills in their team. They also apply the “learning by doing” strategy. On the contrary, we noticed a great difference in facilities and resources, we went from a 22 people business to a several hundreds people company.
Written by Inés DECOTTEGNIE, Lisa ROMANET & Pauline DERON