Activewear brand Lululemon is a month into its first-ever global “This Is Yoga” campaign, which works to inspire customers to find their “yoga” — or rather, an activity that helps them find serenity and peace. To fuel the campaign, the brand tapped pop singer Betty Who for its inaugural Beats Per Moment Tour, which kicked off in New York City on June 6.
“When I was in college in Boston, I started getting into working out a little bit. I would go to the Lululemon store on Newbury Street every couple months and shop around, leaving with one thing that I could afford at the time,” Who told Billboard following her first Beats Per Moment performance in New York City. “There was one day that I was looking around at all the photos on the wall, and I thought, ‘I want my photo in a Lululemon store one day.’ When I was walking around the massive Fifth Avenue store last week and saw this whole table talking about my yoga practice and my self-awareness and self-love, with all these clothes I had picked out, I was like, ‘This is so cool! I wanted this, and now it’s happening.’”
Julie Anderson, the New York City brand & community maven for Lululemon, told Billboard that the idea for the campaign initially started with their Sunday concert series Super Sundays. “We opened our community space here in New York about a year ago, and one thing we know people love about living in New York is access to music,” Anderson said. “We started doing ‘Super Sundays,’ where we would have a pop-up concert and not tell anyone who was performing, so people would RSVP and show up to hear a new singer. That gave us this sense of new music discovery that we loved.”
After witnessing the popularity of Super Sundays in the almost incubator-like space of New York’s Lulu community center, Anderson and the other mavens (Lululemon managers) decided to take the concert idea to the next level. “When I began meeting with managers and agents throughout the past year, they would tell me that the music industry had kind of gone from a ‘rock star’ scene to musicians taking a really deep practice in yoga or meditation, and they generally value their health [more than musicians did in the past] because they know it leads to more sustainable careers,” Anderson said.
“We knew that there was something in that, so we thought, ‘How cool would it be to partner with musicians who lead these really mindful and health-driven lifestyles and bring them into our world?'” That’s how the Beats Per Moment Tour was born.
Anderson met Betty Who about a year ago and says she was instantly a “no-brainer” choice as a collaborator. “What we all really wanted to do was show the human side of an artist and to collaborate with someone who is inspired to connect with their fans on a really deep and personal level. For Betty, she really values her health. Whether she’s on tour or recording, she’s committed to living a healthy lifestyle that values eating healthy food and working out. She values what we value as a brand.”
The tour features one show per week during the month of June in the other three major markets — Chicago, San Francisco and L.A. — which also have their own brand & community mavens. Each event is twofold: First, a Soul Cycle session with Betty Who as the instructor followed by an acoustic performance in the Lululemon community space. The events are free of charge, instead functioning on a donation basis. The Chicago market, for example, is partnering with I Grow, a local nonprofit that works to provide sustainability and health education for children and at-risk communities, and all proceeds will go to them. For San Francisco and L.A., Who has selected GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) as the non-profit to benefit from the proceeds of the concert in honor of Pride month.
“When we were putting together the Beats Per Moment tour, it was very open to interpretation and suggestion,” Who said. “We talked about how we wanted to put the show together and talked about doing it with a full band, with tracks, with dancers, and eventually, it came down to wanting to put something together that felt really intimate. I wanted to do something that I never do and decided to do the full show acoustic.”
Of course, music and fitness are only part of the concept; the other aspect is what the brand and Who are calling “Betty Who’s Picks,” a hand-selected collection of the singer’s favorite Lulu pieces (including what she calls “the best bras ever”) available for purchase at retail stores nationwide. “I spent a day trying on everything at Lululemon and walked out with a massive bag of clothes to wear all summer long,” Who says. “They told me my choices would be displayed, so at first I tried on some colorful things, but when buying for myself I exclusively wear black and white. So they said, ‘If you’re not going to wear it, don’t pick it,’ so my table ended up being monochromatic; it’s very New York of me to have an all-black table.”
For Who, the entire project is really more about pushing herself, and others, out of their comfort zones to find a place of “yoga” within themselves. “The whole thing is pretty nerve-racking and scary, because it’s not something that I’m used to doing,” Who admits of the collaboration and acoustic performance. “But if you’re going to encourage people to push themselves, you can’t be unwilling to do the same thing yourself. I’m trying to live by example and put on a show that is exclusive, that is intimate, that is different and that is something that’s only related to this tour that Lululemon can say was theirs.”
Video courtesy of Theodore Collatos.