Oct
09
2012

Q&A: Chip Wilson

The man behind Lululemon always flies in comfort

I thought I had the perfect question to launch my interview with Chip Wilson, founder and chairman of Lululemon, the clothing-cum-lifestyle-choice of yoga fans everywhere. It went something like this: “When you get on an airplane, do you look around to see how many passengers are bearing your brand’s unmistakable logo?”

“Well,” he answered. “These days, I mostly fly by private jet.”

“Oh,” I said. “Of course you do.”

Of course. This man chairs a multi-billion-dollar company, and his brand is practically a religion. Yes, he has a private jet.

But that’s OK. The frequent flyer—sometimes on commercial planes— was still willing to address that question, as well as share some hard-earned travel insights and a few fashion tips, too.

How many days a year do you spend on the road?

I probably spend about 200 hours a year in the air, probably one trip to Asia, two to Europe, and then probably four major family vacations to the Caribbean, Australia or Africa; we have a charity in Africa [imagine1day, which supports education in Ethiopia].

When on a commercial flight, do you take note of people wearing Lululemon?

It’s fascinating. I recognized some years ago that people were using it for travel wear. The big change [is from] “I know I’m nearing Vancouver again,” or “I’m going back into Canada because I can see Lululemon.” Now, I see it in London or the Tokyo airport—that’s a huge shift.

Do you bring workout gear when you travel?

I pack running shoes and a pair of regular shoes. I have size 13 feet and so my shoes can take up almost a whole bag—I have to pack carefully.

Book or e-reader?

It’s very rare that I read; I’m almost always doing business stuff on the plane. So then I’m on my iPhone writing notes or writing emails so that when I land, everything’s done.

Any packing tips?

If I’m going for more than two days, I’m usually carrying a big bag because I buy a lot of clothing. I think most people go to museums, but my wife and I go to clothing stores. We buy a lot of clothes; we don’t necessarily even wear them, but we like the art of clothing.

Do you wear Lululemon when you travel?

Definitely. I think it’s more uncomfortable for a guy because, you know, you sit, and you’ve got private parts and areas that get very scrunched from sitting, and that’s critical. [I wear the] Kung Fu Pant; it’s a loose but not overly baggy pant with what I would call a masculine structure.

Key piece of business advice?

I can be right or I can be rich. I try to give up my ego. I think by giving up my ego I include more people and become wealthier. Of course, I define rich as in money, family, health and everything else.