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Will London's Gymbodies Be Conquered by Lululemon?

04/04/2014 12:38 BST | Updated 03/06/2014 10:59 BST

Brace yourself: You may get bored of hearing about lululemon over the coming months.

The wildly popular fitness brand has opened its first official UK branch, in London's Covent Garden. Shoppers at the store may be looking for motivation and high-performance exercise togs. Then again, they may be thinking what millions of others do: This outfit makes me look slim!

That's been the brand's main USP: workout clothing in ice-lolly colours that skims the body and gives the appearance that you've been exercising for weeks already. Just try not to think of the thigh-quivering prices.

"Lululemon has become synonymous with chic," says Tula Karras, a New York fitness editor and writer, who's used to seeing wall-to-wall lululemon in trendy classes across the Big Apple. The clothes feature a fit that comfortably "sucks you in", she says and "it's expensive, so it says to the world, 'I can afford these'." Karras, who contributes to magazines such as SELF, Fitness and Woman's Day, owns several lululemon pieces--and loves them. "Women have discovered that it's not enough to just work out, you want to look good--or at least not look terrible--as you're dripping with sweat and gasping for breath."

It might seem that the brand has come to the UK just at the moment its fortunes are waning. Even as the company expands, Wall Street experts are expecting tougher times, with increased competition from Nike, Gap unit Athleta, and Australian brand Lorna Jane. Lululemon recently had to recall expensive yoga pants that turned out to be see-through when the wearer bent over - a snafu that was exacerbated by subsequent comments from its founder Dennis "Chip" Wilson that perhaps the pants weren't meant for every woman (ie those whose thighs overstretched the fabric). Understandably, that drew women's ire. The brand also does not feature larger sizes.

Last weekend I held my breath, handed over my credit card and bought my first lululemon article of clothing, at an upscale resort that draws well-heeled guests from New York City and Boston. I don't like the company's missteps or its refusal to cater to larger women, but I have joined the ranks of fans (some might say fanatics) who adore the way it makes me look. When I put my zip-up jacket over my tatty workout t-shirt I transform into focused yoga devotee, a cardio kick-boxing athlete, a striver.

The company's new CEO may herald a transition that makes the founder's distasteful statements and sizing issues a bad memory. But you can bet that lululemon will become a more frequent sight at our yoga studios and gyms, just as it has in America, despite the high prices. That's because when we ask the question, "Does my bum look big in this?" the answer lululemon provides is "No."