The hottest in 2014:
This fall, these two herringbone vinyasas were the source of a huge amount of buzz. They never made it to stores, and the quantities online were very limited. On the plus side, lulu made up for this by releasing a lot of textured vinyasas later, including mini check pique.
Introduced in the spring, the free to be wild bras were a huge hit this year. Almost every color since then has sold extremely well, and lulu is making a smart move by incorporating this style into their core lineup for 2015.
Arguably the holy grail of all of 2014: the fatigue camo rise and shine jacket. Selling out virtually instantly online and in stores, everyone seemed to want this jacket. Prices on the resale market soared to $500+, and this is one of the few hot items that even now, many months after its release, is still extremely scarce.
More that was hot (and also maybe a little controversial) in 2014:
The first release of the here to there dress in March was a huge hit. The design is fantastic–these dresses are almost universally flattering, and incredibly versatile to boot. They lost a lot of popularity in the second release in August when the price was raised from $128 to $168.
The anytime dress was another winning dress design this year. Each color has sold out quickly and has been heralded by most as a versatile and flattering design.
Secret garden was a bit of a divisive print. The incredibly loud, unabashed floral-y-ness of the whole thing put a lot of people off, including me, initially. (Since then, it’s grown on me, I must confess.) The inspire crops were particularly popular, with even Mindy Kaling jumping on the bandwagon.
The 5 worst designs of 2014:
The secret garden party onesie. Like your grandma’s couch got into a horrible accident with a toddler’s outfit. Not a lot of redeeming qualities here.
The great granite blazer vest. The blazer vest was a weird piece to start with, but adding a huge dose of great granite sent this one over the top.
The cabin onesie. I’m not sure why a onesie made out of sweater material was supposed to be a good idea in the first place, and the poopy diaper look really sealed the awkward deal.
The dickie. Arguably practical in certain circumstances, but why?
The official AA award for the most offensive item in 2014 just has to go to the tranquility jacket. The zipoff details, baggy 3/4 sleeves, shapeless fit, and denim are the ultimate sh*tstorm of design insanity as far as I’m concerned.
Less-than-fantastic trends and changes:
– In general, uploads continue to be scattered and lack cohesion. Color themes are inconsistent, and many items have lagged or been released at really weird times. Some speculation is that lulu is being impacted by drama at shipping ports, which has affected many businesses. I hope that this is true, the issues have been no fault of their own, and that we’ll see a return to more coherent uploads as soon as the ports get their act together.
– Price hikes. Although a number of items have been priced quite high, the most dramatic and noticeable change has been wunder unders. Lulu has started charging $10 more for wunder under prints and $10 more for rolldowns. So, for a pair of rolldown printed WUC, the new price is $92, which is 28% more than the old price of $72. I understand that prices often do need to be raised because business is business, but I don’t really agree with how they’ve gone about doing it. Price changes should be more consistent (in terms of percent change) to spread out the impact on the customer. I also happen to think that $10 for a rolldown feature or a print is too much (especially when it’s both together)–$5 is more understandable and reasonable.
– Where are the good, solid-colored CRBs??? There have been quite a few great colors, but no CRBs to match. Neon pink, jeweled magenta, pigment blue, forest/fuel green, rugged blue, berry yum yum, black grape… The list goes on.
– Fringe sizes (2 and 12) have been getting repeatedly screwed over. Core items that normally come in these sizes like WUs, CRBs, speeds, inspires, etc., have been mysteriously missing one or both fringe sizes in some colorways. Speaking from experience, this is incredibly frustrating for people who wear these sizes. It’s understandable that seasonal items and capsule collections aren’t always made in a full size run, but missing out on core items in great colors is hugely disappointing and frustrating.
– Speed shorts fit quality has been all over the map this year. A lot of pairs have been fitting longer, and there is a lot of variation even in different pairs of the exact same size and color. According to a heylululemon thread, the pattern tolerance of speeds was increased during production (presumably to pump out larger volume to meet the demand of us speeds addicts). We were promised this would be fixed by fall, but it still isn’t quite where it should be. Speed shorts are one item where no brand has something that even remotely competes, so this has been a very frustrating issue.
– The experimental pieces, such as the &go capsules, have been a huge flop. Lulu has let mediocre quality and poor selection in core products go unchecked while they instead invest a lot of time and money into designing large amounts of bizarre items that no one really wants. I’m ok with lulu experimenting and branching out in general, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of their core purpose, which is to create high-quality workout gear.
Positive trends and changes:
– The special edition items for SeaWheeze and Wanderlust were almost universally a big hit. Although not accessible to most, these designs were really strong for the most part.
– Lots of popular older items were brought back: the define jacket, stride jacket, savasana wrap, previous version of the scuba hoodie, unity pullover, etc. These were met with mixed success, but it’s refreshing to see lulu making an effort to give us what we want, at least in this area.
– The addition of the new product previews via Britt’s picks has been great. I look forward to this feature every week, although granted, it does take a little bit of the surprise away.
– The new upload time has been a net positive. Upload used to be past midnight Eastern, but because of feedback from sleep-deprived folks out east, HQ bumped it up to 7:15 ET/4:15 PT. Although naturally, this doesn’t work for everyone (personally, I think 9:15 ET/6:15 PT would’ve been slightly better), I think this was a good move. Upload day was also bumped back from Monday to Tuesday to give stores more time to get new product on their shelves. I preferred Monday for reasons of shipping timing, but overall not a big deal.
– Early this year, HQ appointed a new CEO, Laurent Potdevin. Since the design timeline is pretty long and large changes take a long time to implement in general, we probably haven’t seen the real impact of him being on board just yet.
Overall, this has been a rough year for lulu. Sure, there have been some great items and positive changes, but overall it’s been far from their strongest work. Their stock tanked this summer, their inventory is moving much more slowly, and they’ve been losing a lot of loyal fans. Unfortunately, on the whole, the bad has outweighed the good this year as far as the health of the company is concerned.
That said, they certainly have opportunity to recover. They still do a lot of things better than any other brand out there. Their name, reputation, and market share, although damaged, are still a force to be reckoned with in the activewear space.
As I mentioned above, the new CEO (as well as other leadership changes) may have things coming down the pipeline that could really boost the company back to its former glory and help them stay competitive in a market that’s seriously heating up. We’ve been told a customer loyalty program and improved central inventory system are coming in 2015. If executed well, these new implementations could be an enormous help in both efficiency as well as customer happiness and retention.
Here’s to a better 2015, lulu!