Ex-Lululemon CEO on why she left the company
Former Lululemon (LULU) CEO Christine Day talked openly for the first time about why she left the apparel retailer at Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference on Wednesday.
She said at the end of her time at the company, her vision didn’t match founder Chip Wilson’s. “You have to take control of your own life and say, ‘This isn’t working for me.’” She added that Wilson loved disruption and clash: “That wasn’t who I was and that wasn’t going to work for me.”
Day also said that the company’s see-through yoga pants fiasco never felt like the big failure of her career, noting that you have to be willing to “manage through bad times as well as good times.”
Fortune previously detailed Day’s departure from the Vancouver-based company, but her onstage comments at the conference were the first time she addressed her culture clash with Chip Wilson directly.
Day planned to take time off after leaving Lululemon but soon after joined Luvo, a healthy food company that’s trying to put nutrition back in frozen foods. “I met with the founder, and I was captured by the mission,” she said. She noted that about 73% of healthcare dollars are spent on food-caused disease, and she saw an opportunity or marketplace disruption.
Day has made a career of working for disruptive consumer-facing companies. She started at Starbucks (SBUX) when it was a $400,000 in revenue operation and left 20 years later when it was $8 billion. She said she loves to create the business model for new concepts at companies that are also purpose driven. “If you wait for the evidence, you’re not the first mover,” she said.
Day left Starbucks under less fraught backdrop than her departure for Lululemon. She had worked for the company for two decades and needed to know “what was Starbucks and what was me. I needed to know what I was capable of.”