Unicorns and Their Opposite


Katie Workman, an independent retailer, wears unicorn leggings.

As James Thurber once explained in his fable “The Unicorn in the Garden,” the unicorn is a mythical beast. To argue otherwise labels you crazy as a jay bird.

But if you’re really looking for a real unicorn nowadays, you can find it at LuLaRoe. And for that matter, donkeys too. Who knew?

Not I, certainly,

It turns out that LuLaRoe makes, among other things for women, leggings — highly decorative pants that fit like tights. Suitable for raves and yoga festivals, among other venues. And some of these leggings are unicorns.

No, they aren’t printed with images of unicorns. They are unicorns because they are uniquely attractive because hard to find.

And why hard to find? LuLaRoe explains on its website: “If you see a pattern you like from an Independent Retailer you shop with, we highly recommend to purchase the one-of-a-kind piece! Our eye-catching prints and colors are produced in limited quantities of up to 5,000 each, making them all unicorns!”

(Rather than going through established stores, LuLaRoe clothing is sold by independent retailers. An independent retailer is someone who sells LuLaRoe clothing individually, or at a party in a home, called a pop-up boutique. The website explains, “they are making significant income all by scheduling and co-hosting LuLaRoe Pop-Up Boutiques.”)

(And you have to be pretty serious to become an independent retailer. It costs $6,000.)

But there’s another side to the story. Not all LuLaRoe leggings are hard-to-find unicorns. Some patterns don’t catch on and remain undesired. What’s the word for that? Donkeys.

Katie Workman, the independent retailer who operates WorkWomen Lularoe Boutique, on Facebook, puts it this way: “The donkey is an individual judgment. Unicorn leggings are desired by the larger population — everybody wants them.” Her guess at why “donkey” became the opposite of “unicorn” is that both are associated with horses: the unicorn being more splendid than a horse, the donkey less.

People shop for LuLaRoe unicorns nowadays as avidly as they hunted for the equine equivalent in ancient times. “An individual’s unicorn is an item they really want but haven’t found yet,” Workman says.

And it’s not just women’s leggings that are torn between unicorns and donkeys. “Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll have an intuitive feel for which start-ups actually have a shot at being unicorns and which ones are probably just donkeys.” That’s what Emmanuel Sibanda says in a 2015 blog post evaluating start-up companies.

Who knew?

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