Friday, January 28, 2011

What is the Relationship Between Tuff Athletics and Lululemon? Ripoff or Joint Venture?

I've been seeing a lot of this logo in my gym and around lately and finally tracked it down at Costco today.


It turns out it's a brand of athletic clothing called Tuff Athletics. Although the tag says it's a USA company, when I googled it, the trademark was registered to Cascadia Fashion Resources out of Burnaby, British Columbia. Hmmmm. Very coincidental location.


The construction details are nearly identical to Lululemon. Here are some photos of the jacket:

Hair Tie On the Zipper - A Signature (I thouht) Lululemon Design Feature

Cuffins and Thumbholes - Two of my favorite features on my Define Jackets

Ipod Cord Tunnel - pretty nice feature on a $23 jacket. There was also a loop to thread the headphone wire through.

Here is a comparison of the stitching - both are flat seamed. The bottom is the Tuff brand, the top is a pair of my Groovin Crop Tie crops. The Tuff looks fairly well constructed.

It's even offered in similar colors - The Coal Tuff crops are laid on top of my Coal Still pants. Pretty close.


The color choices of Tuff crops available at my Costco today - looks like recent Lulu to me.



Here is a comparison of a pair of Tuff crops with purple waistband and my Power Purple/Lolo Purple Groove shorts.

I can't tell you how peeved I was to see this today. I bought a pair of crops to take home and try out. The design details, construction, colors, and fabric content are total clones of Lululemon. The Tuff crops are identical to Lululemon Reverse Groove crops. The seams are in the same place and there is an inner pocket in the waistband in the same place. Both are flat seamed and the stitching is identical. The only difference is that there is no gusset in the Tuff version. They are also not reversible. When you feel the fabric, it feels a lot like luon. However, when you put them on there are obvious differences. The material is much stiffer and much less stretchy. These crops did not fit me nearly as well as my own Groove crops (nor even the newer Lululemon ones with the new luon). That's a very good thing because I'd be peeved if Costco is selling crops nearly as nice as Lululemon's for $17. I also read on line that the Tuff fabric tends to hold odor. I also read a blurb on a discussion board from a woman who lived in Vancouver who said the rumor around town was that Tuff and Lulu were made in the same factory. (Any Vancouver readers want to confirm or deny?) Her comment was from 2008 so things might have changed now but I am curious as to why Lululemon isn't protecting their distinctive look and design features more unless they are silent partners with Tuff. Tuff has a Facebook site, too. Check out these photos of Tuff designs, all eerily reminiscent of Lululemon:


That fabric looks suspiciously Space Dye-ish or Static-ish.

This tank looks very similar to Lululemon's Movement Tank:


They even offer hoodies.

Here is a link to the Canadian Costco magazine article about Tuff Athletics.

57 comments:

houndlvr67 said...

Wow-someone mentioned this to me at the gym the other day, but I haven't had time to check for myself. Glad you did ;-). I often wondered about Zella (Nordstrom) too. Lot's of similarities there as well, down to the double "l" which, so I've read, is a Chip Wilson signature. I think you covered that already though-seems to be headed-up by a Lulu defector.

Anonymous said...

J76 is another Vancouver clone lulu company that sells luon like items.
http://www.j76cw.com/pages/about_us.html

also, I think Lulu has a few methods of inventory liquidation (ebay!) so it wouldn't surprise me if they have a lower price point company.

Becky said...

I have seen these items many times at Costco. I haven't purchased any yet, but have been tempted by the Define-like jackets.

LuluAddict said...

@ houndlvr - I think Tuff is even more of a clone than Zella.

@ Anon 4:15 pm - Wow - that J76 is a total Lulu clone, too. Do you really think Lulu liquidates on ebay? There does seem to be an endless supply of older Spark and Repose tanks popping up there. ;-)

Vicky said...

I am not gonna lie, I will likely check out some of the stuff for casual wear when I pop into Costco next. I have a hard time spending money on lulu pieces I can't use for excersize (I still do, but I feel more guilt, well at least a little more) I love cheapy cute hoodies for around the house since I am clumsy and my kids are forever wiping gipe on me!

Anonymous said...

yes I know for a fact about ebay. I returned a damaged item in store once with an very identifiable marker on it only to see it pop up under a well know ebay seller not 2 days later.

LuluAddict said...

@ Vicky - the jacket wasn't too bad but very plain and boxy - it was a In Stride ripoff. The crops were not very comfortable to me. I'd rather buy cheap Beyond Yoga from ebay - much more soft and stretchy.

LuluAddict said...

@ anon 4:22 pm - Very interesting!!! That might explain why hot items are popping up on ebay on upload Thursday.

Anonymous said...

I live in Vancouver, and there are several stores (One Tooth and J76 are the names that come to mind) that have products that mimic Lulu stuff pretty closely, all made in China, and all significantly cheaper than Lulu. Obviously they are trying to capitalize on the desire for attractive workout/leisure wear in this region (EVERYONE wears yoga/workout clothes all the time here - it's seriously like the uniform here!), but everyone knows that they are knock-offs, and they haven't taken off.

Tuff is available at my local Costco as well, and I actually bought a pair of tights in the fall just to laze around (because while I'll spend $95 for workout gear, I refuse to wear it around the house - it's for work outs only!). They are exactly the same cut as Wunder Unders, but let me tell you, there is a reason they only cost $17. The fabric looks and feels like luon, but it's got that horrible sheen when in stretches. Worst of all, the tights fall down constantly, even though they are my size - they lose elasticity in all the wrong places, even though they've only been washed a couple of times. I went for a run in them recently and NEVER again will I make that mistake - they fell down the entire way.

My point is that while there are definite quality issues at Lulu of late, they do know how to get the fit right. I think it's a matter of picking and choosing much more now than before. I would probably buy a Tuff hoodie or shorts (for lazing around), but while the fabrics may be similar, there is something not quite right about them.

And for people who buy Lulu for the brand caché AND the functionality, that Tuff flower logo is as telltale as a handbag with a triple C logo instead of the double C Chanel...

LuluAddict said...

The Tuff crops fit totally wrong on me, too, and the feel of the fabric felt awful. I think Lululemon is tops on fit, too. I just hope they get a handle on quality and go back to their old recipe for black luon.

Marci said...

Think of all the money I could save....interesting.

Aussie gal said...

I have a couple Tuff jackets from Costco here in Aus and I love them, and for the cheap price you couldn't go wrong! I work in child care so mostly wear them for work, they have held up really well too. Had one for over a year now and there is no pilling or anything like that. I also bought a pair of pants and have worn them once and couldn't wait to get them off, they were horrible!!!! Looked great before you put them on but just felt wrong all day and definitely did not fit the same as Lulu's!! Not even close!

Was curious as whether there was an affiliation or not though....

Glow said...

I've seen the "Tuff" line, but I don't even have a Costco membership, so never had a chance to try it. I also find the logo ugly. I do, however, own a few items from One Tooth. It's an (I think) small chain of athletic wear stores that has the slogan "Athletic wear at a price that's fair", an obvious jab at Lulu. They have very similar design features; I bought shorts almost identical to the reverse grooves (also reversible). Their basic items are decent, not as nice as Lulu (I find the material bagged out a little, and doesn't feel as nice as luon), and the designs/colors tend to be very limited and boring.

Anonymous said...

I have some tuff items and can definately say lulu fits, looks and sits much better

Chris in Naperville said...

I took pics a couple of weeks ago and meant to send to you....my hubby almost flipped when he saw and commented...hey honey, look at all the $$$ we could save. While I would buy the Tuff to work int he yard, for $17, I would not want for long term...great for around the house, when you do not want to damage the $100 pair.

Glow said...

Interesting fact: I just checked, and apparently One Tooth clothing is made in Canada. Still... not hugely impressed.

Vicky said...

Well I will have to touch them a bit and check out the feel, I am always about feel. I know I wouldn't try the pants because I pretty much hate all non lulu pants now! As much as finding cheap luluesque things would be great, I want lulu to be better!

Anonymous said...

Costco Canada's in-house mag has an article on Tuff this month:

http://www.costcoconnection.ca/connectioncaeng/20110102#pg23

IME, they are great value for my money and the chance of me wearing the same as someone else is significantly less with them. I can't tell you how many times in spinning I'm staring smack at my double.

Until last year the smallest size from Tuff was small and that's like a Lulu 6. Thankfully now they've added XS or Lulu 4. I much prefer Lulu's designs/fabric but I also get easily bored with a single brand.

btw, I'm not disillusioned into thinking Made In Canada carries that much extra value. From what I've read, It may still be sweatshops staffed by illegals.

- loving my Tuff Skort & Lulu NLT coal/crush at the same time

Anonymous said...

I have also purchased a few things from the tuffs items at costco. I find the luon like items are ill fitting. i have had a few tanks that i liked but only held up for a short period of time. But i do really like there hoodies. I work in a daycare and go through clothes like crazy when doing art projects so there cheap alternatives are alot easier to ruin at 20 dollars a piece versus my 100 scubas. and i can usually get quite a few wears out of them.

Anonymous said...

You sound so surprised to find these cheaper versions, may even be same company but it happens all the time. Old Navy vs Gap vs BR, all very similar styles, same company w/ difference in quality yes but similar. Target has versions of Pottery Barn, the list goes on. If you like the style but not the price, go to Costco. If you only like all things lulu spend the money or shop a sale.

Anonymous said...

Your "boobs on a wire" bra is finally on the US side under "we made too much"...not sure if I'm a little late on that though!

Laurie said...

This is totally off topic, but remember when the black Hot Class Bra was mysteriously on sale in the regular section?
I nabbed one and love it.
Just now I was checking my cart and it reappeared at the sale price, out of the blue. The black isn't even online when you search.
I bought it ;)
Let's see what happens!

BBanana said...

I agree with alot of comments here. I live in Kelowna, BC, Canada and our Costco has carried Tuff athletics for a long time now. I really love their hoodies and pants to laze around in because of the price and the comfort. They are also awesome to wear around my work (I'm an RN, so for 12 hr shifts, it's nice to have the comfort without worrying about ruining it because they are so affordable).

However, as already mentioned, the quality does not match that of lulu. I have a 4 year old pair of lulu groove pants that are virtually unaged looking - while my one year old pair of tuff pants ended up wearing out in the crotch area and ripping. I've only ever bought the tuff pants and hoodies, so I can't speak to their other products, but I feel they are a great alternative.

That's my two cents, anyways! BTW - love your blog! I am definitely a lulu-addict too!
Love from Canada!!!

Anonymous said...

IMO this is Costco wielding their strong purchase and retail power. Lulu lovers would obviously be mortified if real lulu was sold at Costco which would significantly dilute the brand and brand loyalty. Since Tuff appears to only be sold at Costco, it clearly is an indication that lulu has licensed the rights for Costco to replicate the designs. Unfortunately nothing gets past this awesome group of lulu lovers!

Anonymous said...

Luluaddict I am SO thankful you did this comparison!! I've definitely taken notice to the design differences between Tuff and lulu while at Costco but never TRIED any of the Tuff product. Good to know! Much thanks!!

jade said...

I have a few pairs of pants (crops and long pants) from Costco that are more than 6 years old. I wear the long ones around at home, and have worn the crops to yoga. They fit fine on me, but it could be my body type. As mentioned above, the pants aren't as nice as lululemon, but then again, for the price, I thought it was perfectly fine and functional. It must be just recently that they've started doing the jackets in similar styles to lulu, because I just remember basic jackets from years ago. Everyone's just copy catting things that sell well in hopes of getting some of the market.

LuluAddict said...

@ anon 6:06 pm - The relationship between BR, Gap and Old Navy is public and known. If there is a relationship between Tuff and Lululemon it's hidden. Also, Old Navy doesn't have exact copies of Gap clothes. The Tuff crops were exact copies of Reverse Grooves and the jacket had the more distinctive design features of Lululemon - the thumbholes and cuffins and the hair tie - the things that make their jackets kind of special and functional. I'm not seeing why they are letting that be copied into a much, much cheaper line.

Anonymous said...

Lulu doesn't have a special trademark on "cuffins" and thumbholes. Other brands - nike and adidas come to mind - have been doing thumbholes and cuffins in their technical running gear (NOT the lower-end nike stuff sold at marshall's or tj maxx or department stores) for several years now.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the post. i've always wondered about the flower brand. i've seen lots of tennis players wearing clothes with the tuff logo and had wondered about the fit. i've seen some copy cats of skirts (skorts) of the tuff brand but the fit doesn't look as nice.

i used to live in vancouver, and j76 have been around for quite a few years. they used to be sell both sporty clothes and select casual/dresses. from what i recall, their clothes were HORRIBLY cheap and vowed never to buy j76 ever again.

Anonymous said...

I was in old navy today and saw a tank that looked a lot like the lulu manifesto design. If I would of had a camera I would of taken a pic to post. material was thick and aweful though. But the look was so lulu.

Anonymous said...

the original luon recipe from the made in canada batch contained no polyester. It's the newer items that have different blends with polyester that are having quality issues and are becoming more and more similar to the clone brands that feel scratchy and are see thru.

Anonymous said...

Glad you posted this because I had been meaning to ask about the Tuff brand for a while now!

I purchased a pair of black paints with a blue and lagoon (patterned!) waistband from Costco a few years back when I couldn't yet justify spending on lulu. I have worked out in them and worn them for casual wear for a few years and they still look new. A few months ago I wanted to buy another pair from Costco but the fit was completely off so something about their design must have changed.

My Tuff pants from a few years ago are still holding well though and show much less wear than my lulu pants that are practically brand new.

Don't know if the quality has changed for both companies but it seems to me like even the Costco quality/fit has gone downhill in the last few years, like I'm hearing about with lulu. This might be even more of a reason to believe they're both connected...

Anonymous said...

I am also from Canada, and have been using Tuff gear for years at dance, and haven't had any problems. Actually, Tuff pants fit me better than lululemon, due to my rather large leg muscles. Lulu always looks ridiculous on me, so I figured that they weren't wanting to have muscular chicks wearing their stuff, kind of like how they don't go above a size 10 most of the time. I really take issue with that. I, myself, am a size 6, but with the muscles, the luon (or luon-like pants) are difficult to buy. Perhaps Tuff has gone down in quality recently, I'm not sure, but so far, my only complaint with them is that the sleeves on their jackets are too long for me.
Lululemon seems cool, but I've been disappointed with their production moving out of country, considering the price points. Now, for high-quality stuff, I'll go with Skylar or Tonic (both made in Canada.) Lulu diehards may not approve of either brand, but they might be worth checking out. (I'm not meaning to offend anyone with my post, but just giving a personal rant based on my own experiences.)

An Inquiring Mind said...

Totally OT, but that is so awesome you posted the Canadian Costco connection digital edition. My company makes that edition and I am the project manager for Costco so I got a little thrill seeing that you linked to my project, LOL! :)

Anonymous said...

i've been told that tuff is actually designed by an old lulu desginer that got nixed..

salimakchatur said...

Its funny that this is mentioned because I owned tuff athletics before LULU and I always tell people how my tuff athletics pants are thicker and never pill, as compared to some of my lulu stuff. Although I am still a huge lulu fan.
old lulu stuff def has a similar texture to the tuff stuff
hmmmm

Anonymous said...

The Real Canadian Superstore also has many lulu like pieces. The quality is not totally horrible on everything. This winter they had a knock off of the Pinnacle Jacket for a fraction of the price - it even was a nice fit. So if your like me and tire of winter jackets quickly why not by the Superstore version, wear it for a season and then buy something new next year - you haven't spent alot of money and you have more $$ for other lulu items-lol :)

Anonymous said...

All of these companies just copy lululemon and there are tons. Even walmart and bikini bay (mimimango) are clones. And badly made ones. lululemon does not have any other affiliate companies except ivivva.

Anonymous said...

Some of the TUFF hoodies mimic the TNA hoodies that are sold in a trendy Canadian retailer called Aritzia.

http://aritzia.com/fashion/sweaters/fitted-hoodie

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but it seems to me like you are bored out of your mind!!! Who cares if they are a clone or a silent partner or whatever! Did you also know that Old Navy is the cheap brand for Gap and Banana republic? Of course you did, so why didn't it bother you? Bottom line, if you want to pay a small fortune for Lulu because the differences are so noticeable for you, then by all means, do. With your permission, I will keep on buying the floral brand since they are the most comfortable pieces of clothing I own and since they are so reasonably priced, I bought one for each day of the week.
Signed: Mother of four.

Miss Melissa said...

I live in Toronto and never heard of Turf before but I have seen the flower logo at the gym/yoga class. I don't have a Costo membership so that may be why.

I don't think I would buy any of their items just because they only come in xs to xl. I'm small chested and would need a 2 or xxs.

I used to buy yoga pants from Gap Kids (size 16 or XXL) but they wore out and seams feel about within 6 months and I had 4 pairs. I'd rather spend money on 2 pairs of pants that will last, I can deal with the pilling issue but not seams falling apart. You get what you pay for.

Does Costo have change rooms? I'm tempted to go into one and see if I can try the clothes on or do you need a card to even enter the store?

WIERD GREEN MAN said...

More copycats:
lucy (lucy.com)
I've seen some non-lulu crops with printed waistbands around that I think are Champion
Old Navy Goga pants
I have not tried on lucy pants, but the Champion(?) and Goga pants do not fit well and are not made of awesome fabric.
The first syllable to lululemon and lucy's names...
And the (lack of) capitalization...

Anonymous said...

can't compare!!! lulu is selling 98and made is china for a pants while tuff is selling 18 and made in canada!! what do you expect???

Anonymous said...

Lululemon is great but too over priced .

Anonymous said...

I just tried on a pair of Tuff Capris from Costco. Too shiny even for under $20.

Anonymous said...

LOVE TUFF!! As a fitness instructor I love their crops they are so versatile and so professional looking and fit me great as an xs. I also have the black zip up and a few hoodies... amazing quality and comfort! Im just waiting for them to sell shorts now for the summer too! their pants are so versatile I can wear them to work or school or the gym. I would never in my life pay 100 dollars for pants at lululemon I am not brainwashed by brand names to spend that much money all for what? to sweat in clothes? They are both made of nylon and spandex/lycra... so cheers to costco!

Anonymous said...

The only thing I would say is that the tops tuff makes start at a size small... they need to make tops for xxs and xs! Cause Id buy them!

Anonymous said...

Here is some info on workout clothes:

Polyester vs Nylon
Polyester fabrics perform better than nylon for moisture management because polyester is more hydrophobic. Nylon threads will absorb more water than Polyester, water requires more heat energy to warm than does air, so nylon will feel colder when wet, and stay wet longer, and when saturated impede breathability.

Polyester is hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb water. This means that when it is dyed, only the color of the dye dissolves into the fabric (not any water-base), making the dye permanent. Nylon® possesses hydrophilic qualities (that is, it absorbs water). Its inability to repel water causes the fabric to swell and ultimately weakens the molecular structure. The dyestuffs used on nylon® tend to oxidize, a reaction which is catalyzed by light. The microscopic effects range from color fading to complete degradation of the polymer matrix. This is why the colors fade in nylon-lycra® swimsuits over time, but do not fade in polyester-lycra® swimsuits (Man-Made Fiber Yearbook, August 2000).

Anonymous said...

Check out MPG Sport that is the HOTTEST Line!!

They do their own thing and make great product....

Michelle Norwood said...

I heard of MPG- I think I saw them at Equinox or something. As much and I love Lulu I think its worth it to try something new.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone purchased from the Athleta (Gap) catalog? The styles are also very similar to Lulu and I was wondering how the quality compares....

Anonymous said...

people - Lululemon doesn't have monopoly on basic colors and basic styles like the wunder under crops or even astro crops- I have seen very similar styles long time ago - but they weren't made with Supplex back then. sure they add some extra detail. I like Lululemon and have a bunch of their stuff, but I also like Gap's running jackets - stull good quality supplex and way cheaper. for capris I prefer Body Language Sportswear, but they have much less choice of styles. - that's my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Clothes snobs.
You are complaining because you spend a stupid amount of money on clothes that are just as good as some well made, decently priced clothes that resemble them.
Are you wearing lululemon because it is good clothing, or because you want everyone to know you have enough money to afford the brand.
To me, Tuff Athletics are the best bang for my buck. They wash over and over, wear well, and are every bit as good as the lulu crap I bought into when it first came out. I think lulu is overpriced and over hyped by urbanites who think nothing can be good unless it's a brand until the next new thing comes along.
You don't want people to know you shop at Costco?

Anonymous said...

I prefer Lucy to Lululemon, so I can't compare Tuff with Lulu, but it does compare to my $100 lucy pants. I bought a pair of capri's last spring. I love them. They have held up wonderfully and fit great. I also have two of the jackets. I get compliments whenever I wear them. Costco no longer carries the brand in the USA. If they did, I would definately be buying more. It doesn't make me love my Lucy any less, but I love to get a great bargain!

Anonymous said...

I have owned Lulus before and think they are shit. They pill up way easy, I dont care about price I have a pair of superstore yoga pants that I have had for a year now and they never pill up, spent abotu 19 bucks...Lulus pill up badly and are way overpriced. I am not someone who needs to show off, cause I really could careless what you think about my clothes. I have a few pairs of Tuff pants and they are fine by me.

Anonymous said...

Why are you all complaining about the low price of Tuff at costco? Not everyone can afford to spend $100 on yoga pants. Lulu is so overpriced now, their cheapest hoodie is $108. I went to One Tooth and love it.. Their hoodies are the same (if not better) quality than the scuba hoodie, and about $30 less.. And all their stuff is made in Canada..! Sure One Tooth is not the cheapest, but it's great quality without ridiculously jacked-up prices..

Anonymous said...

Tuff athletics (part of the ellen tracy clothing group) bought out the lululemon factory in burnaby when Lulu switched to overseas manufacturing. So if you want to keep your money in North America and buy great workout clothes by the tuff brand. I used to only buy lulu for working out and rock climbing as they used to be the best quality out there. Now the lulu is manufactured overseas, it's crap quality. The pants pill right away. Switched to tuff and so much happier :0