Tag Archives: Ralph Lauren

Olympic Uniforms, 2014

Photo copyright Ralph Lauren Media LLC

You’ve got to hand it to him.  Ralph Lauren did exactly as he promised and followed through with his pledge to have the Team USA ceremonial Olympic uniforms made entirely in the USA.  Not only were they made here, but all the materials were sourced domestically as well.  It was not an easy task, but earlier this week the results were unveiled.

The media focus seems to be entirely on one piece – the schoolteacher Christmas sweater gone wild as seen above.  I mean really, was Lauren just trying to get even with all the complainers of 2012?  “They want Made in the USA?  I’ll give them Made in the USA they’ll never forget!”  could possibly have been his thought process.

Photo copyright Ralph Lauren Media LLC

But once he got that out of his system, the design team came up with some really great looking sportswear.  I think the pea coat is really sharp.  Yes, it does have the Polo Logo prominently displayed, but even that is toned down from the past few Olympics.  Could it be that Ralph Lauren actually listens to his critics?

Photo copyright Ralph Lauren Media LLC

As bad as the cardigan is, this sweater is really great.  It says all it needs to say:  winter sports, Olympics, Team USA.  And there is a similar one with reindeer on the front, and this design on the back.

You can see (and buy) most of the collection at RalphLauren.com.  The stuff is not cheap.  The pea coat is $795.  Unfortunately, you can’t buy the tacky patchwork sweater as it is sold out.  Things are selling quickly, so act fast!

Polo does not make the active apparel for competition.  Each sports contracts with a manufacturer to develop and make their clothing.

Photo copyright Burton Snowboards

This, believe it or not, is the gear for the USA snowboarding team.  It was made by snowboarding company Burton.  The backstory of the parka design is interesting, and is worth reading.  It is based on an actual antique patchwork quilt, reinterpreted in high-tech performance fabrics.   It seems a bit understated for snowboarders, but I do think it is a great adaptation of an antique textile design.

Fashion Magazine did a feature on their favorite Olympic uniforms from around the world.  There is a slideshow, so click through to see if you agree with their favorites.  Personally, I love the Polish team’s look.  Really.

I also liked Canada’s uniforms, which were made by the Hudson’s Bay Company.  The red duffle coat is nice and is for sale on their website.  Unlike Polo, they outsourced their uniforms, and consequently they are half the price of the Polo ones.  They do, to my eye, look cheaper.

Photo copyright Sports Illustrated

And speaking of duffles, here is a Sports Illustrated cover from 1956, showing figure skaters Hayes Jenkins and Tenley Albright in their official USA Olympic coats.   An old episode of Pawn Stars was on yesterday in which a woman took into the pawn shop an identical coat.  It had an official Olympic Committee label inside, and the patch.  They paid her $850 for it.  (She found it in a thrift store for $15.)

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Olympic Update

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

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“I Don’t Design Clothes; I Design Dreams”

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

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