The Blonde Side Interview’s Lululemon Lead Accessory Designer

The Mat, $68 at Lululemon (photo courtesy of Lululemon)

Lululemon designer looks to Houston workouts to figure out what customers really want

I was all set to interview Katie Douglas, lead accessory designer for Lululemon, the yoga-inspired athletic apparel company. But I quickly learned that a meetingwith any Lululemon employee most certainly requires some degree of sweat. As it should.

Douglas and Lululemon accessories design assistant Kathleen Westerhout invited me to Sculpt Fitness for an early morning workout (which began with the instructor saying, “If you feel you need to throw up, please step away from the machines”), followed by coffee and breakfast at Tiny Boxwoods.

Based out of Vancouver, where the brand originated, Douglas and Westerhout came here to check out the chains’ three Houston locations (Galleria, Highland Village and most recently CityCentre), partake in a detailed and grueling fitness circuit and go on a “four-day taco bender.”

I quickly learned that a meeting with any Lululemon employee most certainly requires some degree of sweat. As it should.

Having been with the company for a little more than three years, Douglas is the ideal person to chat with about the brand and its loyal following, who are known as “luluheads.” During our conversation, she talked about the brand that both men and women are increasingly going gaga over, her favorite things about Houston and what’s in store (literally).

CultureMap: I’m not hungry. I’m still trying not to throw up from that workout. It was intense, right?

Katie Douglas: Yes, it was great. We’ve had quite a few good workouts since we got in town.

CM: Where have you been?

KD: West End Run Club, Yoga One in Midtown, Big Yoga, Sculpt and Yoga Collective. I think that’s it.

CM:You’ve only been here four days – if my math is correct, some of those days included more than one workout?

The Blonde Side and Lululemon girls after a hard workout at Sculpt Fusion in Houston

KD: [laughing]: Working out is not only part of the job, but it’s all something we love. One of the best things about our company is that the first focus is our people – we’re all about having well-rounded lives. Plus, if I didn’t actually use my gym bag or wear scarves, I wouldn’t know how to improve on them and if I didn’t actually do the sports, I wouldn’t know how the apparel needs to function for the sport, like yoga mats.

CM: So what have you noticed about the fitness scene here in Houston?

KD: The classes offered here are great – more options than most. In Houston we see a lot of fusion exercises – Austin too. Like yoga with weights. Vancouver is a bit more pure when it comes to working out, like just run clubs or just spin classes. We (Vancouver) just got our first spin studio about a year ago and CrossFit is getting bigger, but we do a lot of outdoor running and biking – Vancouver is beautiful. We’re a bit slower on the fitness scene, but everybody’s still very active.

If I didn’t actually use my gym bag or wear scarves, I wouldn’t know how to improve on them and if I didn’t actually do the sports, I wouldn’t know how the apparel needs to function for the sport, like yoga mats.

CM: Is Houston more fast-paced than you imagined?

KD: Yes and no. It’s the city so it’s definitely got that city-vibe where everyone’s got to get from point A to point B, but at the same time it’s the South. What amazes me is that you guys get up at 4:30 to go to a 5 a.m. workout and your day keeps going — we don’t get up so early.

CM: Are there certain pieces that do better in Houston?

Sink/Shower Kit, $68 at Lululemon (photo via Lululemon)

KD: It’s all about shorts: year round. It’s so hot you don’t need to wear pants very often. It’s great for us to experience your weather – it’s sunny and 80 but chilly in the morning, whereas it’s 50 and rainy in Vancouver.

CM: Yeah, we’re definitely all about the layers here. What do you recommend?

KD: There are some great lightweight down puffy jackets that are so lightweight you can throw them on in the morning and then stuff them in your bag – they’re not super heavy – so you’re covered morning and night. Back to the whole fast-paced lifestyle, we’ve also discovered you don’t go home and change a lot so being versatile and having layers is a must.

CM: You’re an accessories designer – what all does that mean for lulu?

KD: Scarves, socks, bags, yoga mats, yoga props, water bottles and headbands.

CM: The holidays are coming up. What are some must-have items this season?

KD: Definitely bags, scarves, or anything puffy. Or socks. I believe socks should be in every stocking.

In Houston, it’s all about shorts: year round. It’s so hot you don’t need to wear pants very often.

Kathleen Westerhout: Our Toiletry Kit – I’m excited about that one. It’s a great gift because of the price point and everyone needs one.

CM: Any final words on our city or what we can look forward to in your stores?

KD: If Houston likes their color as much as I think they do, they’re going to be really excited about the next few seasons – winter is going to be amazing. As for the January, color palette – your mind is going to be blown. It’s so fun and happy. It’s really awesome.

KW: I can’t wait to plan my return – I want to come back for vacation – I want to see more of Texas.

KD: Me too.

Once upon a time (as in just a few months ago), I felt Lululemon was entirely too overpriced for apparel that I’d literally sweat in, especially someone like me who sweats like a man. The more I wear and learn about the product (i.e. the gusset, which prevents cameltoe) and become acclimated with their culture, the bigger a fan I become.

The recognizable logo not only symbolizes a commitment to living a healthy life, but also a well-rounded and happy one. That my friends, is well worth the extra pennies. And of course, plenty of motivation to get your sweat on.

This article was featured on Culture Map, Houston’s Daily Digital Magazine in the fashion/style section.