Service of Made in America

July 16th, 2012

Categories: Business Decisions, Made in America, Manufacturing

made-in-the-usa

Is it enough that the US Olympic Committee selects an American brand to design its uniforms-should we expect the committee to instruct that brand to be sure that the clothing is made in America?

olympics2012The initiative is funded by private money so we should be lucky there are uniforms at all and that there are sufficient funds to support and send athletes to London to represent us at a time so many are unemployed or using up their savings to pay for health care or barely eating or headed for shelters or in need of medicine or education. Right?

The company they chose-Ralph Lauren-is one of the best at PR in the country. I’m surprised their eyes were so riveted on the bottom line-the public can also buy the outfits– that they couldn’t strike a deal with a textile plant in the US and make hay as well as berets, shirts, pants and hats, here. A polo shirt costs $145; a track jacket $165 and blazer $700+–plenty of margin to pay an American workroom.

congressThe good news? Olympic uniforms caused members on both sides of the aisle in Congress to agree: “You’d think they’d know better”-John Boehner, R-Ohio and “It is not just a label, it’s an economic solution. Today there are 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs in this country and the Olympic committee is outsourcing the manufacturing of uniforms to China? That is not just outrageous, it’s just plain dumb. It is self-defeating.”–Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Ralph et al listened. In 2014, the uniforms will be made here.

Meanwhile I heard on the Frommer travel radio show yesterday afternoon that there are 400 London hotels with space as well as tickets to the Olympic events–currently available at discount. Who knows if this is due to especially horrible London weather this summer or the economy or the lack of interest in the Olympics or the fact that London is a very expensive city to visit or that people know to wait in order to capture better prices.

Back to the uniforms: Was this outcry about the uniforms a question of pride, chauvinism run amok or politicians relieved they can finally agree on something? Do you care who designs the US Olympic uniforms and/or where they are made?

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14 Responses to “Service of Made in America”

  1. ASK Said:

    The reality is that very few American clothing labels are made in America anymore…they haven’t been for years. So, where were all these politicians when manufacturing – not only of clothing, but other products, textile or otherwise – started moving East? A friend was stunned to find out that most of her newest Waterford pieces were no longer being made in Ireland…

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    I read in one of the first articles on the subject that Hugo Boss has a plant in the US. Boss has plants in other countries as well such as Turkey, Germany and Poland, according to Wikipedia.

    You are right–drapery, upholstery, towel, linen, most home-related textiles are woven or printed elsewhere, as phones and tablets are made abroad and……I suppose members of Congress agreed at the time when all this started happening since, as you point out, they did nothing about it.

    On a radio station on Saturday a caller was disconnected when he noted that as a National Park Service employee he was comfortable in his uniforms–made here–and that under President Reagan they were made in China and were no longer at all the same.

  3. Debby Brown Said:

    A huge, missed opportunity from the Ralph Lauren brand and company, in my opinion! Imagaine all the positive coverage his company could have generated if the Olympic uniforms had been made here. I suspect it was easier to go to China to get them manufactured there, rather than make the effort to identify companies here. Imagine all the “behind-the-scenes” stories that could have been generated during the Olympics about how Lauren was working with American manufacturers. It could have inspired other companies to jump on this slow-moving bandwagon to “Buy American.” The President, Congress, Senators and more could have pointed to Lauren as a leader in getting Americans back to work.

    Debby Brown

  4. Deirdre Said:

    To not have selected an American manufacturer is absolutely tone-deaf. But my own bigger complaint is the gigantic size of the RL Polo logo. If those horse logos on the blazers were any bigger, you’d be able to ride them! It’s supposed to be about the USA, isn’t it? Tacky.

  5. jeanne byington Said:

    Deirdre,

    With the negative publicity, maybe they will reduce both the size of the horse + the price! Thanks for pointing it out. Very unsportsmanlike of them.

  6. T.J. Thorpe Said:

    I write this to honor my grandfather who paid his own way to Athens to compete for the United States in the 1906 Olympics as an amateur. He didn’t have a uniform, that advertized something. Admittedly, he was working in Italy at the time, not that far away, but then the games were about sports, not money. They were worth caring about.

    Now they are about money, not sports, and nobody cares about anything, as long as everybody, including the athletes who are mostly pros anyway, or on the take from somebody some way, ends up with lots of money, gets lots of publicity, and likes the commercials. If the ice skaters are pretty, that should help boost the TV ratings too.

    As to those uniforms, I don’t care whether the Israeli uniforms were made in Mecca, the Indian uniforms, in Pakistan, or the American ones in China, just so long as they were made cheaply enough to permit Ralph Lauren to squirrel lots of tax-avoiding big bucks in his Cayman Island offshore bank account.

    That’s the good old American Way these days isn’t it? Get somebody else to do it for you, and then avoid paying taxes on your profits.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Ouch, TJ!!!

    I hope your Grandfather won!

    As for pretty skaters, maybe the Olympics will add water skiing to their sports given all the floods they are having in London these days. Otherwise, we won’t see pretty ice skaters until the winter games.

    I heard about an American swimmer whose bathing suit has a lineup of logos representing her sponsors. I couldn’t find it on the web to confirm the info so as to mention it in the post but the source is reliable enough that I feel comfortable noting it here. Golfers these days are logo-logged–on hats, shirts, club covers, caddy’s shirts and shoes no doubt. It’s a bit like chicken pox: Contagious throughout the sports world.

  8. Lucrezia Said:

    Given the state of the economy, and the fact that our corporations have been pulling the rug from under our workers, I temporarily wrap myself in the Flag on this one. Lauren pulled a tactless blooper, and deserves a rotten egg and tomato. Rubbing further salt in the wound, he gratuitously gave a thumbs up on a nation whose athletes are in deadly competiton with our own. As a supporter of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC)I fail to appreciate his working at cross purposes with our efforts.

    I like Lauren and his products. His name resonates good quality, and he is philanthropic without advertising his generosity. Everyone trips up. It’s to be hoped he learned something by this experience which undoubtedly comes coated with tons of bad publicity and possible loss of clientele.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I was thinking that a splash of red and white in the form of tomato and egg randomly tossed might spruce up the unimaginative, listless uniforms someone designed in three minutes or less. This, obviously, wasn’t a project given priority chez Lauren. I’ve seen plenty of great clothes for children and adults sporting the Ralph Lauren logo–I also love the bold colors and stripes–and am surprised the company didn’t pay the entire project more attention.

    Thank you for mentioning his philanthropic activities. This aspect got lost in the brand’s less than generous approach to the Olympics.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Debby,

    I responded to your comment and my thoughts went up in vapor! No doubt the RL company wishes this headache, brought on by themselves, will similarly evaporate.

    Had the marketing team thought about this, they would have made in volume what they would have lost in margin per item. But they approached the project in knee-jerk fashion. There’s a lot of that going on….caused by so-called failsafe, but not so safe, financial templates/systems that impose arbitrary constraints while omitting the benefits of imagination and common sense when making decisions. Another glaring example: Banks lending, or not lending, money.

  11. Martha Takayama Said:

    I have to agree with almost all the responses to what seems like an incredibly arrogant, short-sighted, politically insensitive and just plain stupid decision on the part of the Ralph Lauren brand. The country is profoundly economically depressed, all kinds of manufacturing is farmed out not just to China. It seems impossible this corporation would not have noticed the prevailing economy and accompanying social climate.

    The Olympics are now a blatantly commercial enterprise with no real relation ship to their original concept. The bulk of Lauren’s most popular and relatively accessibly priced garments and accessories are very clever editing of classical and preppy style of inferior quality and higher prices than their inspirations. However, that is for the individual buyer to decide.

    It does seem absurd and the height of bad taste for blaring advertisement for the manufacturer, as opposed to the U.S. team, or the U.S. itself, to be a prominent part of the design. The apparent lack of enthusiasm for visiting London or attending the event may well be due to tedium, or cynicism about the event or the overwhelming security measures and deployment of defense forces which have served to create a state of siege.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I saw a woman at the farmer’s market on the way into work sporting one of the golf/polo shirts and as Deirdre described the jackets, so went the shirt with the oversized RL logo. Let’s hope that the designer of the 2014 uniforms is given the tip made by people commenting here to reduce or totally remove the logo on the outside of the shirt and have it appear on the “how to care for” label sewn on the inside seam.

    I wasn’t able to find out, after a very quick search, what portion of the proceeds of sales of these shirts are given to Team USA. Even so, $145 for a $35 golf shirt seems excessive and not even in the category of moderately priced, especially for a Chinese made garment that would normally be priced at $9.99.

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha Takayama just sent an email telling me that Hickey Freeman said it could make the uniforms in the US and in time, but this article dated 7/13 that I found on line–http://www.13wham.com/news/local/story/Rochester-olympic-uniforms-Hickey-Freeman/YuWCecZvm0qLEpKOFEfwFQ.cspx–reported that the company had not been approached to do so by the US Olympic Committee.

  14. Kathleen Fredrick Said:

    Lots of good feedback on this topic. It does seem as if the RL companies missed the boat on not searching out US mfrs. to produce the Olympic items. The fact that they announced so quickly to fining US mfrs. for 2014 attests to this. And I agree that the Polo emblem is way, way too large. I’m surprised the Olympic Committee allowed any brand to appear on the uniforms.

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