Lemon aid

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Lululemon is a business inspired.

Inspired by yoga and Pilates - although it's not a studio. Inspired by healthy living, with a philosophy of motivation. Inspired by community, which sustains it.

Lululemon opened a Columbus branch in August, where they sell their yoga-inspired retail line and offer outreach in the local fitness community. They plan to establish a full-fledged store if things go as they have in other locations all around the world.

The space has a spare, studio feel, with visible ductwork and a plain concrete floor. Shelves and racks hold apparel along the walls and are pushed out of the way for weekly yoga and Pilates classes, and some cushy furniture surrounds a table that holds a large jar of Lemonhead candies.

Lululemon's strategy of linking up with local Pilates and yoga studios and gyms helps them bring in guest instructors for free classes every Saturday at 10 a.m. Some participants have never taken a class before. Others are advanced but just want to try something new.

"We want to be a hub of health and fitness for our guests, we want to be a great resource for them," said Brooke Johnson, Central U.S. community manager, who's based in Chicago. "But we really want to support ... the studios, so usually what we'll do is pair up with one studio for the month, and they'll provide the teachers all month long. And we'll really work to promote them, and vice-versa. So it's really a nice relationship."

And there's plenty in Columbus to connect with, said Jess Guy, an educator at the Columbus showroom. Ten Pilates and yoga studios are listed on the website.

In addition to the classes, there's yoga-inspired apparel and accessories that include stretchy, comfy pants for men and women, colorful sports bra-style tanks for women, and moisture-wicking tees and hoodies for both - plus all kinds of mats, straps and hats.

Besides just "yogis," Lululemon counts dancers, runners and travelers seeking comfort among its fans, Johnson said.

The company prides itself on frequent garment "testing" through trial uses and the ability to follow up quickly with adjustments, tailoring the line to what works. That's led to things like zipper pulls that can be used as hair ties, flat-sewn seams for zero chafing and lots of pockets - like those squeezed into a pants waistband and the side of a hat - that Lululemon's become known for.

There's also a line of tops that uses silver thread to neutralizes odor and static - "When you say that, the guys' eyes get huge," Guy said.