Lorna Jane Clarkson has spoken about the bullying allegations dogging her fitness wear empire, saying in a television interview on Sunday night “the truth will come through”.
Clarkson, who founded the Lorna Jane brand 25 years ago, also showed some of the emotional toll these types of allegations can take on business owners.
“I should be tougher than that but this is who I am. I’m human,” Clarkson said in an interview on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes.
In September, the popular brand was accused of bullying and harassment by a former store manager Amy Robinson, who alleges Lorna Jane management attempted to cover up the bullying she endured about her weight while working for the company.
The company denies the allegations but a decision to create a hashtag for its defence on Facebook also attracted criticism.
The accusations also followed a backlash against Lorna Jane over a job ad for a receptionist and “fit model” in July.
The ad, which one employment law specialist described as having “sailed a bit close to the wind”, specified the applicant “must” have a specific body size to undertake the duties of a “fit model”, including a bust of 87-90 centimetres, a waist of 70-73 centimetres, a hip measurement of between 97-100 centimetres and height of at least 165 centimetres.
Here are four takeaways from Clarkson’s emotional interview.
1. On that job ad
“Well, in hindsight would I wish we’d written it differently? Absolutely. I just think it was … we’re an activewear company. They misconstrued the word ‘fit’ for being physically fit and not actually a ‘fitting’ model. And fit doesn’t mean skinny.”
2. On the allegations of bullying and harassment
“It’s not true. And the truth will come through. And, you know, if there was (harassment) I would put a stop to it. I would do the right things.”
3. On facing criticism as a business owner
“When you build a brand that is so much about you and who you are as a person, it hurts.”
“I hope I’ll get a thicker skin because of it, but right now, no, it doesn’t feel like that at all. I feel vulnerable, I guess.”
“Bill [Clarkson] will kill me for getting upset because I’m not normally like this, you know. I’m so positive and I think that… This is not me, but right now with the things the press are saying about me and my brand, this is how I feel.”
4. On ambition
“My grandmother said to me, when I was … about four something like that, she said, ‘Lorna, Lorna Jane, what do you want to do when you grow up?’ And I said, ‘I want to be rich and famous’.”