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I Owe My Lululemon Love to a Cool Teen

Kiernan Shipka in sunglasses Photo: Getty Images

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If you know me (or read the stuff I write, anyways) you’ve probably picked up on this: I’m obsessed with Lululemon.

And not just the apparel, although the Wunder Under leggings are dope. (Lulu sports bras, however, I have a serious problem with.) I’m fascinated by all the drama that surrounds the brand — from a rogue ex-CEO who won’t stop making trouble to the eerie self-help training employees were often encouraged to attend to the underground market that enables people to buy used leggings at high markups.

But I wasn’t always into Lululemon. I hadn’t even heard of it until 2012, though it’s been around since 1998. How did the brand get on my radar? Well, I found out about Lululemon the same way we all find out about great and trendy things: from a cool teen.

A very specific cool teen, mind you. One named Kiernan Shipka.

Five years ago, I was freshly unemployed, having fallen victim to a round of massive layoffs at a failing journalism startup. A friend from the job graciously introduced me to an editor at New York magazine, who in turn took me on as a freelance party reporter.

I was initially thrilled at the prospect — Free champagne? Celebrities?? Parties??? — but quickly learned how grueling and socially isolating the beat actually was. After taking on Fashion Week assignments that involved attending parties for brands I couldn’t pronounce (Proenza Schouler) and reality stars I adored in college (Lauren Conrad), I jumped at what I assumed would be an easy task: attending the Ralph Lauren kids’ show to interview little Sally Draper. Piece of cake, right?

I don’t remember if it was my idea or my editor’s, but I went to the fashion show intent on asking Kiernan all about her Mad Men masturbation scene from a couple summers before. The publicist who set up the interview must have read my mind, because I got cornered and was told I could only ask Kiernan fashion questions, and that those about Ralph Lauren were specifically encouraged.

Needless to say, the interview was pretty boring, although Kiernan was incredibly sweet and impeccably dressed. At some point, I asked her to name her favorite brands. She listed a few, including Ralph Lauren (of course) and Miu Miu. She then thought for a bit and added, “I'm very active and play a lot of sports, so I also wear lots of Lululemon.” To which I replied, “I’m sorry, can you spell that?”

Kiernan winced and gave me a look (one that almost certainly read Isn’t this chick supposed to be a fashion reporter?) but was kind and diplomatic, giving me the rundown on the brand. I went home, filed my story (spelling the brand “Lulu Lemon,” by the way), and then, with a giant glass of wine, surfed the Lulu website and spent $300 I didn’t have on a pair of leggings and two tank tops.

Though my story never ran, the encounter proved to be a pivotal moment for me. Thanks to Kiernan, I’m now the proud owner of dozens of Lululemon pieces and have come into a pretty regular hot yoga practice. I still pronounce Proenza Schouler wrong, but we can’t have it all now, can we?