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The Ralph Lauren U.S. Olympic Team Uniforms

When jobs in the USA are being outsourced to other countries during a time when our own economic situation looks so bleak and unemployment rates continue to stay at record highs, more consumers are taking a harder look at the products they buy and where they are made. This is especially true in the fashion industry where designers have been outsourcing their manufacturing practices to other countries since, well, forever. More people everyday are switching to clothing that is made in the USA rather than those that are made in countries such as China where workers are grossly underpaid and mistreated.

One would think that if you are supporting Team USA in the Olympics by providing them with free custom designed uniforms you would also support our own economy by manufacturing them on US soil but apparently Ralph Lauren did not see it that way. ABC News revealed last week that Ralph Lauren manufactured this year’s U.S. Olympic Team uniforms in China. Is Ralph Lauren, a multi-billion dollar company, seriously trying to save a few bucks by making them in China? It has sparked such an outrage among politicians that Senator Harry Reid said  “I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.” The Cut added “And then presumably sit around the fire drinking Budweiser, roasting s’mores, and gleefully watching the berets crackle.” But as The New York Times pointed out, Ralph Lauren has been manufacturing overseas or in Canada for over a decade and “took over the license for the opening and closing (Olympic) ceremonies in 2008.” So why all the controversy now? Well, for one a major media network brought a lot of attention to it which they did not do in the past and secondly I believe there is a general unrest among Americans for all the outsourcing that is going on by major corporations whose only concern seems to be making more profit rather than the welfare of the American economy. How can the U.S. be a major player in the global economy again if American companies don’t even support our own industrial capabilities?

In response to the backlash, Ralph Lauren released the following statement:

“For more than 45 years Ralph Lauren has built a brand that embodies the best of American quality and design rooted in the rich heritage of our country. We are honored to continue our longstanding relationship with the United States Olympic Committee in the 2014 Olympic Games by serving as an Official Outfitter of the US Olympic and Paralympic teams. Ralph Lauren promises to lead the conversation within our industry and our government addressing the issue of increasing manufacturing in the United States and has committed to producing the Opening and Closing ceremony Team USA uniforms in the United States that will be worn for the 2014 Olympic Games.”

American Apparel tumblr

While this may quiet some outcries, some people agree with Senator Harry Reid when he says they should just start over but Ralph says it’s too late. American Apparel disagrees. Their rep made a point to tell Fashionista.com:

“The American Apparel factory makes more than 50 million garments a year and that isn’t all for our stores. A huge part of the company’s business is wholesale and private label–we can basically make anything for anyone. Our prices are completely competitive, especially when you factor in the quality control and speed to market. American Apparel could start working on uniforms today and have them in London within 7 days. That’s what vertical integration is about.”

Founder and CEO of American Apparel, Dov Charney, even offered his factory to Ralph Lauren so that he could turn out the uniforms in time for the London Olympics, the rep told Fashionista. Although, I’m sure Ralph Lauren won’t be bothering with that.

The latest from Fashionista.com says:

“On Monday nine Democratic senators, led by Sen Robert Menendez (NJ), introduced the Team USA Made in America Act which requires the USOC to ensure that “all ceremonial uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team to be ‘sewn or assembled in the United States with fabrics formed and cut in the U.S. or components knit to shape from yarns wholly formed in the US,’”WWD is reporting. The bill would require the USOC to provide justification if it can’t meet the stringent Made in America requirements.”

Right on Senator Menendez! I’m with you!

What’s your opinion about all this controversy? Do you think it’s necessary to write it into law?