A week long stay in the home of Lululemon reveals a very liveable city full of people who live and breathe health and fitness
You hear the cliche and think it can’t be true, but the first thing you notice is that Canadians really are the nicest people you’d hope to meet. From the taxi drivers to total randoms, there’s a calm, relaxed authenticity about any personal interaction. Of course, this is generally speaking, and yes, it could be the euphoria of travel, or that third glass of red on the plane, but it was noticeable.
I went to Vancouver to participate in SeaWheeze, a half-marathon-cum yoga-festival conducted yearly in August or September. This one, however, coincided with Lululemon’s 20th birthday, so there was a pretty big party either side of the run.
The second thing I noticed was that everyone was active. The bartender was an avid snow-boarder and mountain biker; the waitress a CrossFitter; the concierge was a backcountry hiker and fly fisherman. Hell, the housekeeping woman, a small Asian lady in her late Fifties was a keen runner. “I did sub-two last year,” she said of my coming half-marathon, a cornerstone of the coming weekend’s festivities. “Sub-two” (finishing under two hours) is an impressive achievement for someone half her age. I quizzed everyone I met if they did yoga. The response was the same as if I’d asked if they flossed regularly: “Yeah, once a week, but I should do more,” said the hiker. “Three times a week,” said the CrossFitter, adding, “it helps my squat.”
“Yoga every damn day,” the mountain biker declared, proudly quoting the hashatag.The Asian housekeeper laughed and said, “I do yoga before they call it yoga.”
Of course, Vancouver lends itself to exercise, outdoor activity and yoga. Pressed closely around a beautiful harbour, not unlike Sydney’s, the city has large tracks of parkland, wide bike lanes, is only an hour from renowned snow resort Whistler and is surrounded by picturesque mountains perfect for hiking, trail running, kayaking, etc. And it’s the birthplace of Lululemon.
Started 20 years ago, Lululemon was a design studio by day and a yoga studio by night, but eventually turned into a standalone store in November 2000. In 2001, the company began selling yoga wear. Today, the company has over 400 stores worldwide with net revenues of USD 2.7 billion dollars, according to statista.com.
It’s a success story worth celebrating and every year they do,with a weekend called SeaWheeze, which they bill as, “an out-of-this-world weekend where you’ll get your yoga on, crush your running goals, and celebrate it all with family and friends at an outdoor concert.”
And that’s pretty accurate. The run is a half-marathon (21.2km) around the city, which is an instagrammer’s dream. It’s a serious distance that requires some serious training, but on the day it’s serious fun, with huge community support, lots to see and interact with. The yoga is everywhere around the city over the weekend, from parks to the city to the convention centre. Everywhere you turn, people are saluting the sun or doing headstands. And peppered throughout the weekend are goal-setting sessions, massages, pop-up stores, talks and yoga classes. There’s a real buzz.
After the run, the weekend terminates with an outdoor, feel-good music-cum-yoga Sunset Festival. Sitting on the hill, buzzed by runner’s high, a couple of beers coursing through my veins, I felt the onset of a gentle, calm euphoria. Vancouver is a truly beautiful city, proudly athletic and active, deeply into yoga and self-development, with a deep sense of community, all underpinned by Canadian authenticity. I realised then that I’d got it wrong: Vancouver isn’t Lululemon.
It’s the other way around: Lululemon is Vancouver. The brand has appropriated the character of the city, taken its essence as its brand values and bought it to life in a high-quality, popular product range and scaled it cleverly. Absolutely brilliant. Right on cue, as the music pumped, fireworks began to burst over the harbour, naturally.