I thought I had the perfect question to launch my interview with Chip Wilson, founder and chairman of Lululemon, the clothing-cum-lifestyle-choice of yoga fans everywhere. It went something like this: “When you get on an airplane, do you look around to see how many passengers are bearing your brand’s unmistakable logo?”
“Well,” he answered. “These days, I mostly fly by private jet.”
“Oh,” I said. “Of course you do.”
Of course. This man chairs a multi-billion-dollar company, and his brand is practically a religion. Yes, he has a private jet.
But that’s OK. The frequent flyer—sometimes on commercial planes— was still willing to address that question, as well as share some hard-earned travel insights and a few fashion tips, too.
How many days a year do you spend on the road?
I probably spend about 200 hours a year in the air, probably one trip to Asia, two to Europe, and then probably four major family vacations to the Caribbean, Australia or Africa; we have a charity in Africa [imagine1day, which supports education in Ethiopia].
When on a commercial flight, do you take note of people wearing Lululemon?
It’s fascinating. I recognized some years ago that people were using it for travel wear. The big change [is from] “I know I’m nearing Vancouver again,” or “I’m going back into Canada because I can see Lululemon.” Now, I see it in London or the Tokyo airport—that’s a huge shift.
Do you bring workout gear when you travel?
I pack running shoes and a pair of regular shoes. I have size 13 feet and so my shoes can take up almost a whole bag—I have to pack carefully.
Book or e-reader?
It’s very rare that I read; I’m almost always doing business stuff on the plane. So then I’m on my iPhone writing notes or writing emails so that when I land, everything’s done.
Any packing tips?
If I’m going for more than two days, I’m usually carrying a big bag because I buy a lot of clothing. I think most people go to museums, but my wife and I go to clothing stores. We buy a lot of clothes; we don’t necessarily even wear them, but we like the art of clothing.
Do you wear Lululemon when you travel?
Definitely. I think it’s more uncomfortable for a guy because, you know, you sit, and you’ve got private parts and areas that get very scrunched from sitting, and that’s critical. [I wear the] Kung Fu Pant; it’s a loose but not overly baggy pant with what I would call a masculine structure.
Key piece of business advice?
I can be right or I can be rich. I try to give up my ego. I think by giving up my ego I include more people and become wealthier. Of course, I define rich as in money, family, health and everything else.