When it comes to Lululemon vs Athleta, there are a lot of opinions out there. Some people swear by one brand or the other and the discussion can get as heated as a hot yoga class. Let’s take a look at the real similarities and differences between these two yoga brands to help you figure out which is the right one for you.
Brand Background: Lululemon
As a brand, Lululemon is a bit notorious. Those who love them love them. The Vancouver-based company has a cult-like following and once printed quotes from Ayn Rand’s famous novel Atlas Shrugged on its shopping bags to demonstrate the importance of self-interest central to both the plot of the book and the brand.
Though this marketing approach is no longer used, it demonstrates the strong ideology behind Lululemon’s founding.
Lululemon’s marketing, pricing, and products are aimed at successful men and women who are financially stable, care about their fitness, and are willing and able to pay for quality. That said, Lululemon has a few very public issues with quality over the years, including a popular pair of yoga pants being see-through in certain yoga poses.
Lululemon was founded in 1998. It opened its first standalone store in 2000. Though the product line started with yoga clothes, it has since evolved to other areas, including running, cycling, and other activities that make you sweat. They make a variety of clothes for men, women, and girls and their products include everything from workout leggings to jackets to polo shirts and a wide range of yoga accessories.
Brand Background: Athleta
Athleta was also founded in 1998. Ten years later, the brand was bought by Gap Inc. and became widely known and much more accessible.
One of the main differences between Lululemon and Athleta is that Lululemon started out making yoga clothes and has products for everything. On the other hand, Athleta started out making clothes for running and cycling, moved to include yoga clothes, and has always made products designed exclusively for women.
Athleta’s branding is aimed at women of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities. Their goal is to encourage every woman to get active, no matter where she is in her fitness journey. The brand was carefully developed from early on with a clear mission to improve the health of women. This approach worked. Growth was fast and aggressive initially then stagnated a bit.
It managed to significantly increase interest in the mid to late 2000s before being purchased by Gap Inc. Because the brand was already successful in its own rite, Athleta’s revenue and presence grew rapidly with the support of the famous Gap name. They kicked their “Power of She” campaign into high gear in 2016 and have had continued success even though other Gap brands are struggling. For the time being, Athleta’s use of grassroots marketing and brand ambassadors is working and working well.
What About the Clothes?
Because both brands have such a wide and varied product line, we’re going to focus on comparing their basic yoga leggings.
Each brand uses a blend of nylon and Lycra with small differences. Lululemon’s material is 86 percent nylon and 14 percent Lycra; Athleta is 88 and 12 percent, respectively. Both materials are stretchy, moisture-wicking, breathable, and perfect for yoga.
Lululemon’s Align Pant II is available in sizes 0 to 14 and comes in 25, 28, and 31-inch inseams. It’s machine washable on cold and can be tumble dried on a low setting. There are 17 colors to choose from and one pair costs $98. On Lululemon’s website, these pants don’t have the stellar reviews you might expect. The average customer rating is 3.2 stars with about 2800 five-star and 1300 one-star reviews.
Athleta’s ultra-high rise Elation yoga pants are available in XXS to XL which, according to the size chart, is 00 to 18. They’re machine washable and can be tossed in the dryer, though the material dries very quickly.
They come in petite, regular, and tall which have 24, 26, and 29-inch inseams respectively and are available in six colors. These leggings cost $89. On Athleta’s website, these tights have much better reviews than the comparable leggings from Lululemon with an impressive mean rating of 4.8 stars and approximately 1300 five-star and only 13 one-star reviews.
Differences and Similarities
On the surface, there aren’t that many differences between the basic products of these two popular activewear brands. They’re made of comparable material, look very similar, and cost about the same. Previously there was a significant price discrepancy between Lululemon and other brands but that gap is starting to close. The difference in price is only $9 when, in the past, that would have been nearer to $30.
Customer reviews are always worth considering because they’re the best way to get an idea of what the product is really like. From that perspective, Athleta comes out on top. Their average reviews are much higher and there are only a handful of one-star ratings for the basic yoga leggings we considered.
Lululemon vs Athleta: Other Things to Consider
Because Athleta is owned by Gap, you’re likely to get more rewards for shopping there if you already have a credit card with one of their other brands. Lululemon is its own entity and cannot offer rewards on the same scale.
Athleta is also more likely to have sales than Lululemon and offers a bigger discount for fitness instructors with 30 percent off in-store purchases; Lululemon offers a discount of only 15 percent.
Sizing is also different between the two brands. Lululemon carries sizes 0 to 14. Athleta carries 00 to 16 in-store and extended size up to 26 or 3X online. This size variance is one of the biggest advantages for the Athleta brand as they cater to women of all shapes and sizes whereas it’s been rumored that Lululemon is not interested in making plus-size apparel.
Lululemon’s return policy is more strict, too. Items have to be unwashed and unworn with the tags still attached to be eligible for returns. Athleta’s policy is in stark contrast to this. They encourage you to work out in their clothes to see if you like them and accept returns if you don’t.
When it comes to Lululemon vs Athleta, the choice is yours but Athleta has a bit of an edge when it comes to quality. Still, some people love the philosophy behind Lululemon and remain extremely loyal to the brand.