The New York Times reported in a Nov. 14, 2007, story that Lululemon Athletic's VitaSea clothing line, which the company has said is made with seaweed, may not contain any seaweed at all. The VitaSea clothing line uses material provided by a company called SeaCell, and says in its product literature that the properties of seaweed fiber helps to reduce stress, is naturally hydrating, provides detoxifying benefits, is anti-bacterial, and also has anti-inflammatory benefits. According to the article, when the New York Times contacted Lululemon founder Dennis Wilson, he said he could not dispute the findings and that he was depending on SeaCell for verification of the fabric's properties and benefits. To read the article, click here.
SNEWS® View: This is potentially an unfortunate oops…making product claims without verifying them. Sure, one would hope a manufacturer could rely on its fabric vendor to provide accurate performance and benefits claims, but let's face it, suppliers are in the business of selling their products too, and might not be, well, fully immune to mistakes, unintentional misstatements, and perhaps a bumble or two themselves that could have disastrous effects on your business. Let the buyer beware is a warning often held up to consumers, but it applies to everyone. If you are a manufacturer using materials that make performance claims, like Lululemon's VitaSea line makes, it would seem imperative to have third-party verification of those claims, and then periodic testing to be sure material shipments continue to hold up to spec. Manufacturers of down have long known they have to test to verify powerfill claims. Waterproof/breathable fabrics, coatings and chemical applications are all frequently tested independently to ensure performance. Unfortunately, the New York Times investigative article has left Lululemon's team scrambling for explanations…not exactly what you want when you are a publicly traded company.