Patt Morrison for July 23, 2012

Ralph Lauren faces ire for China-made Olympics uniforms

Ralph Lauren/AP

A stage employers' union has offered to replace all Chinese-made U.S. Olympic uniforms — which means replacing all American uniforms in two weeks.

"Meh.” That’s been the general reaction of fashion moguls to Ralph Lauren’s reboot of the U.S. Olympic uniforms.

"What else did we expect from all-American Ralph Lauren, beyond some preppy gold-buttoned blazers and plenty of Hamptons white,” wrote style blogger, Maura Judkis, at the Washington Post.

Apparently, some expected Ralph Lauren to buck the general clothing industry trend towards manufacturing out of the country. Instead, the designer went with China, causing furor on both sides of the political aisle.

“It matters a lot right now because we’ve been stuck in this economic morass for three years. Unemployment isn’t getting any better, people wants jobs and so this was a reminder that we sent far too many jobs in areas that Americans can do overseas simply for the sake of profits,” said Dana Thomas, contributing editor for the Wall Street Journal and author of “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster”.
Democratic Senator Harry Reid demanded that the clothes be burned (which some protesters have taken action on), while Republican Representative John Boehner stated that Ralph Lauren “should have known better.”

The company promised to have the 2014 uniforms manufactured in-house, but that didn’t stop multiple senators from crafting legislation that would turn the promise into a guarantee — the "Team USA Made in America Act” requires that future Olympic uniforms be made in the U.S. and the U.S. alone.

Even with the outcry from public officials, the reality that most clothes are no longer Made in America really isn’t something new or surprising.

“It’s been like that for about 30 years. We’ve been outsourcing labor, not just in garment manufacturing but all manufacturing to the far east, to central America, north Africa, to any place that has labor that costs less, brings down cost, and raises profit,” said Thomas.

Is Ralph Lauren’s decision worth the upset? Is it time for the United States to be less concerned about the fact that its lower-wage manufacturing jobs are migrating, especially given the fact that we’re holding on to advanced manufacturing jobs? Or is the Chinese-made uniform a symbolic slap in the face with real consequences?

Guest:

Dana Thomas, contributing editor for the Wall Street Journal and author of “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster”


blog comments powered by Disqus