Lululemon Athletica, the very alliterative yoga-inspired apparel company based in Vancouver and serving over 140 locations in Canada, the U.S., and Australia, is causing some controversy with their newly-designed bags. The bags feature the famous catch-phrase, "Who is John Galt?," from Ayn Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged. Lululemon's founder, Chip Wilson, read the novel when he was eighteen, inspiring his original intention to "elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness." Atlas Shrugged has also been added to the staff's reading list.
Most people agree that Rand wasn't the greatest prose stylist of all time, but in this case, people seem to be skeeved out more by the contradictions in the association. Yoga classes are a form of collectivism, which is exactly what Rand was not about. Doing one's asanas somehow seems to be incompatible with the idea of righteous selfishness.
According to the company's blog, the Galt bags are "visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity. We all have a John Galt inside of us, cheering us on." But Onkar Ghate, a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, took issue with the blog post's apparent misreading of Rand's philosophy. He said:
"She wouldn't put it as an issue of living life fully or mediocrity. It's between pursuing your own happiness and self-interest and understanding why that pursuit is right, and to regard that pursuit as noble versus a society that regards it as wrong and ignoble."
Objecting from the other side, one Lululemon shopper said, "I don't want people looking at me with that little logo on my pants or on my hoodie and thinking I'm going home to read Atlas Shrugged after, you know, downward dog." And a commenter on the Lululemon blog wrote, "Rand's philosophy is totally incompatible with the roots of yoga, but I suppose it makes sense for a conceited sportswear entrepreneur seeking full license to screw over anybody he wants to in pursuit of a buck."