Probably the best thing to come out of the Made in China Olympic Uniform Controversy is that people are finally talking about the problem of where and how our clothes are being made. And it’s not just fashion history people and manufacturing people, but Americans in general. This is a national conversation that is long over due.
It’s really easy to just blame Ralph Lauren for making the clothes in China, but the company was just doing business as usual. They don’t hear all the customers lining up to shop in their stores complaining that the goods are made in China, so why would they have any reason to suspect this would be any different.
Truth is, many people have not been concerned about so much of our clothing being outsourced, and those who are concerned have not been vocal in their disapproval. But now the problem is out in the open, and everyone seems to have a strong opinion – mainly that it was wrong to make the Olympic uniforms in China. Hopefully all of us critics will apply the same standards to our own wardrobes.
There are people who are accusing the outraged Congress of being hypocritical. After all, many of them voted for the trade agreements that led to the downward spiral of the US textile industry. And there are those who say that it is all just a lot of political posturing. You know what? I don’t care.
What I care about is that a bill, Team USA Made in America Act of 2012, will be introduced this week that says that the US Olympic Team uniforms must be made in the USA. From what I’ve read over the weekend, several countries, including Canada, already have such a rule.
What I also care about is that many people have already been taking a look at their own closets, and I’ll bet that a lot have been shocked at what they’ve found. As hard as I work toward having a wardrobe of clothing and shoes made only by people working under fair working conditions, I do have a few items of dubious origin. Some are thrift store buys, but others came from catalogs orders before I learned that the word “imported” actually means ”Made in China.” My shoe and handbag departments are especially troubling, and this is from a shopper who has, for the past two years, been consciously trying to buy more responsibly.
Now that it has been proven that Ralph Lauren could have made the uniforms in the USA (Doug Williams, ceo of US made Hickey Freeman and Dov No-stranger-to-controversy Charney of American Apparel have extended offers to remake the RL Olympic clothes, as has the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) hopefully people will start asking the really important question: Why isn’t he making those iconic American clothes he is selling in his stores in America?
Photo copyright Ralph Lauren