The Importance of “Made In”

For some time I’ve realized that while I can’t stand to spend money on a pair of $50 shoes made in China, I had very little problem in spending considerably more than that on shoes made in Italy.  Did that make me a hypocrite, or worse, a racist?  I knew that was not the case, but still, I had not completely worked out why I was willing to accept some imports, but not others.

Last week I read this article about the fight for “Made in Italy” labeling , and Miuccia Prada’s stance on the hot topic.   Prada is defending her use of products made in countries other than Italy with the argument that it is often the original makers of a garment who do it best.  Or in other words, why try to re-invent the Irish fisherman’s sweater when the Irish have perfected it?  Why buy tweed from China, when they’ll never do it as well as the Outer Hebrides?

I read a similar statement on another blog last week (sorry, can’t remember which one but if I run across it again, I’ll be sure to credit and link) that said something similar, that they were determined to buy their clothing from the traditional source whenever possible.  I applaud that!

Unfortunately, in the case of so many things, that is no longer possible, unless you are determined to source vintage items.  I’ve spent the morning putting away my sandals and getting out some real shoes from storage.  I took a good look at each pair, and was shocked to see just how many were made in China.  And many of them are iconic American brands, like Keds and Converse.  It’s really true that we don’t aways appreciate what we have until it is gone.

Posted by ++f+:

i was surprised you hadn’t developed more on your earlier points. but i think maybe i’d missed the point. 

i support what they’re doing although i’ll admit that i might be skeptical about the quality of the skills of their international bagmaker partners. i buy lots of china-made things myself, mostly shoes, because i’m just too cheapskate to spend too much on them. my skepticism is more for luxury products and it’s really based on what i’ve read from those who seem to know about the difference in quality of the before-china products. the question then, is why had the quality gone down and why are the prices still ridiculous?

Saturday, October 2nd 2010 @ 7:02 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

TTFT, I’m afraid you caught me hurrying through a post! 

I guess my first point is that it did bother me that I was okay with Ferragamo shoes, but not with made in China Keds. Part of the argument against imported goods is that it takes such a crazy amount of resources just to get the products from place to place. It’s just greener to buy from local sources.

But there are so many issues associated with this whole import or domestic product thing. Things like factory conditions, child labor, environmental practices of factories,and so many more. It isn’t just an issue of where, but also of how. Even here in the US, with our strict labor laws, there are abuses, so one shudders to think what conditions are like in places where laws and enforcement are lax.

I’ve come to the realization that is is better to spend a little more in order to feel better about how my money is used. I’m not even referring to luxury products; I’m just referring to fairly priced goods that allow people to make a decent living.

See, I did have more to say, but I didn’t want the post to be a huge lecture on why we must buy domestic. The real point is that if the Chinese make the best silk, then buy silk from China. If the British make the best raincoats, buy a coat from Britain. And so on…

I have spent the day sorting through summer clothes, putting them away, and getting out the winter ones. It has occurred to me that I could get by with a whole lot fewer things than I’ve been buried under all day. Instead of 10 $20 dollar blouses that are looking a bit sad, why not instead buy 4 $50 ones that are of a higher quality & will last longer?

One last thing: not everything coming out of China is poor quality. There are many US and European companies with good reputations and excellent products that are now made in China. But so much of what I see in the stores is made from dreadful fabric, and is sloppy. But there were American made things that fit that description as well.

Saturday, October 2nd 2010 @ 7:32 PM

Posted by KeLLy Ann:

I completely understand. 

Sunday, October 3rd 2010 @ 4:52 PM

Posted by Sarah:

That’s the joys of global capitalism for you! Its always going to seek out the cheapest sources of production, and ‘we’re’ happy to enjoy those cheaper prices. 

I don’t think I have much of a problem with the quality of many Chinese-made goods, but I do feel very sad when prestigious/iconic companies close down long-established factories and shift their production overseas, usually claiming that they HAVE to in order to remain competitive in the global market. Burberry closed down their last remaining factory in Wales a few years ago, and now none of their clothing is made in Britain. Not only does it devastate communities dependent on their employment, it certainly takes some of the gloss off what was previously considered to be a British ‘heritage’ brand. What does ‘Burberrys’ mean anymore?

Similarly, if I buy Levis jeans or Converse sneakers, I want the label to say ‘Made in the USA’ because that’s a big part of their identity, their image and attraction.

I understand your point about buying quality rather than quantity, but in these tough times even fewer people can afford to do so.

Its awfully complex, and I could have qualified and elaborated on everything I’ve written already but we’d be here all day!

Wednesday, October 6th 2010 @ 4:05 AM

Posted by daisy fairbanks:

It’s true that traditional sources are usually the best in terms of quality. Centuries of refinement have made the Scottish knitting mills the finest for wool and cashmere for example, even though the raw materials may come from elsewhere. What’s disheartening to me is that when imports from China began to flood the market we lost the sense of the importance of quality, and it seems now that most of the marketing in the US is putting emphasis on price. It’s almost a race to the bottom. I’d much rather own two or three good quality cashmere sweaters from Ballantyne or Pringle than ten I could purchase from China. The knitting mill makes all the difference. And if I’ve purchased those Scottish cashmeres from a second hand or vintage source, the price is comparable. 

Thursday, October 7th 2010 @ 9:09 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

And they say it’s partly the water in Scotland that adds to the quality! 

I’m pretty sure it also has to do with where the finest fibres go.

I buy a lot of cashmere from thrifts because in the winter I wear them like sweatshirts. I rarely bother to buy the cheap originally-bought-at Macy’s-for-$99 ones because they pill so badly and are so thin. But it’s a happy day when I pull a Pringle out of the Goodwill bin!

That’s really sad about Burberry. I sort of feel the same way about Coach. I can’t tell that the quality has dropped since they moved to China, but it seems that they have lost a bit of cache’.

This is a terribly complex problem!

Sunday, October 10th 2010 @ 8:04 AM


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