Fit for Tokyo

Lululemon Athletica Inc.’s Brand and Community Director Amanda Casgar on brand building

Brand awareness in Canada regarding Lululemon Athletica Inc. is pervasive. Since its 1998 opening in Vancouver, Canada, the fitness-clothing brand has branched out. It recently opened in Tokyo’s luxury department store, Ginza Six. The apparel’s Brand and Community Director Amanda Casgar spoke about building the brand in Japan.

What are the key considerations when creating a brand?

There are so many brands these days that are aspiring to be a lifestyle, whether they come to it naturally or not. Thus, in creating a brand in 2017, how it comes to life through real stories is most important. We have so much content because we are out in the community, sweating and building relationships every day.

Our customers know when they are being pandered to, being savvy and smart. We don’t push ourselves into a market; we create relationships on the ground and build community from the ground up.

What are the core values behind the Lululemon brand?

We have very specific, shared core values and are big believers in the law of attraction. Values such as entrepreneurship, personal responsibility and fun are themes that run through everything from our products to our people to how we create into the brand. This is what helps us create consistency as we expand globally and deliver against our decentralized model — entrepreneurship as a core value really fuels this. We train our teams and share the brand in very specific ways, and we trust that they understand this and are going to bring it to life locally in their own unique way.

Japan is one of the world’s most special markets: highly nuanced and sophisticated.

How do you approach Japan?

Japan is one of the world’s most special markets: highly nuanced and sophisticated. The craftsmanship and quality of our products is something that might take more education in other parts of the world, but in Japan, our guests will pick up the fabric and know immediately that there is a difference in our fabrication and how we design. It’s intuitive. We have always taken great joy in surprising and delighting our customers with details in experiences, products and designs. But in Tokyo we have to be that much more ahead of the game because it’s expected — it’s not surprising.

As it relates to the rise in fitness in Japan, we see this trend increasing dramatically. When we think about global influence, it’s just like the wind; it blows in different places at different times. Right now, as with other parts of Asia, there’s a massive influx of boutique fitness and an appreciation for pro-active health and sports.

What opportunities do you see in Japan’s fitness clothing market?

What we do really well is design beautiful and technical clothing. Our guests see themselves in the products in a way that they might not in other athletic apparel because each product is created with the end athlete in mind, even down to the psychology of how they will use the product. We buy specifically based on season and the style of what our Japanese customers like. Then next year, we are going to create an Asian fit line, too.

Why open a store in Japan?

Japan — and Tokyo specifically — is one of the most influential markets in the world. When you walk down the street in Paris, there’s a reason “New York, Paris, London and Tokyo” is displayed on the windows of the some of the most iconic fashion houses. If we can solve for product, brand and community in Tokyo, then we can create a dynamic brand that works for a lot of other markets worldwide.

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