I’m sure you’ve all heard the ABC newsflash that the Polo Ralph Lauren US Olympic team uniforms were all made in China. I’m sorry I’m a day late with the news, but that’s not so bad considering ABC is at least four years late with their expose. Ralph Lauren has been making the uniforms since 2008, and there have been those all along who have questioned why the uniforms were made in foreign factories. And before Polo got the gig, the US team uniforms were made by a Canadian company, Roots, though I suspect that those uniforms were not made in Canada either.
Now half the US Congress has jumped on this bandwagon, and to the shock of all, the Democrats and the Republicans have finally found something on which they agree. I say good for them. My hope is that this will get people to take notice of the American companies who are actually trying to make their products in the USA.
I really didn’t pay this story much attention until I read the comments of US Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky. In a statement to ABC he said, “Unlike most Olympic teams around the world, the U.S. Olympic Team is privately funded and we’re grateful for the support of our sponsors. We’re proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company, and excited to watch America’s finest athletes compete at the upcoming Games in London.”
So why isn’t “an iconic American company” actually producing clothing in the United States? Could it have something to do with money? I’m guessing that it does. We’ve all heard that old-and-getting-older excuse that American companies can’t afford to produce domestically any longer.
While it is true that companies that are selling “fast fashion’ with their insanely cheap prices can’t manufacture in the US and keep the prices artificially low, a company like Polo does not aspire to be the cheapest kid in the mall. No, Polo aspires to make the consumer aspire to at least look like Lauren’s version of the American dream. And part of that aspiration is that the consumer has to be able to pay for the dream. At $85 for a regular woman’s Polo logo knit shirt, it isn’t a dream that all can afford.
I’m not questioning the quality of Polo’s Chinese made products. One thing I learned form Elizabeth Cline’s book, Overdressed, is that not all Chinese factories are created equal. There are many factories that produce only quality goods for the likes of Polo, Burberry, Coach and Michael Kors. I’ve been in Polo stores and have seen that this is nice stuff, but I maintain that it is nice stuff that Ralph Lauren could be making domestically if the company chose to do so. Considering that Lauren’s personal fortune amounts to 7.5 billion dollars, I’d say that the company could afford a profit margin cut.
I know that the US Olympic Committee is over the moon that Polo pays them a reported 10% royalty on the sale of the Olympic collection. Still, I think that Polo logo on the USA uniforms is simply tacky. And if the 2012 uniforms look familiar, maybe that is because we have essentually seen them before, in 2008:
No, that’s right, the hat is different – and better.
And the title quote is from, of course, Ralph Lauren.
All photos copyright Ralph Lauren