As I prepare to watch the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics, my first thoughts of course were, "who made the uniforms and where were they made?"
It turns out that Ralph Lauren was given the contract for Opening + Closing Ceremony outfits again which was no surprise after seeing the outfits. But most of the actual sports uniforms were still made abroad. I thought there had been legislation passed on this, so I did a bit of research.
I would like to thank Senators Robert Menendez, Frank Brady, Bob Casey, Sherrod Brown, Charles Schumer, Kristen Gillibrard for passing the 'Team USA Made in America Act' of 2012. I read the Act and now understand that it only covers ceremonial outfits, not actual sports uniforms. Now that you have proved this a success, I implore you to now expand the Act to include all uniforms.
Olympic Committee, while I commend Ralph Lauren for partnering with American manufacturers again, a couple of bigger looming questions for me remain:
- Has Ralph Lauren added any additional 'made in America' product to their collection? I looked through their entire site and could not seem to find anything except the Olympic collection. Even $115 t-shirts are imported, $225 denim is imported, Polo Sport clothes that have "USA" branding all over them are still imported.
- Has the Olympic Committee considered choosing a company that supports US manufacturing as part of their ethos, and a part of what they do every day?
I don't want to be Debbie Downer when there is an effort to make 1,100 ceremonial outfits in America. I'm all about continuous improvement, but in this case there are a few things that still bother me, especially given Ralph Lauren's reported 2.44 billion dollars in sales last year. In 2016 their revenue was $7405 million, $4187 million in gross profit and $396 million in net income. These are the types of companies that I think should be setting the example for American companies.
- When a company uses Americana imagery, feelings or words to amplify their brand, yet then manufacturers the product abroad it feels disingenuous.
- It seems really irresponsible, insensitive and greedy for a luxury brand to manufacture abroad or without proof of fair trade practices.
- Why would a company engage in certain manufacturing activities in order to maintain the Olympic Contract, and then during their normal manufacturing activities go right back to the way they operated previously without changing for the better....and how could consumers and the Olympic Committee not possibly be bothered by this?
On the Ralph Lauren homepage they advertise their backing of the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative. To me, this reiterates again that Ralph Lauren understands and supports local production, yet they the only American production they employ is that which is mandated by law in order to obtain the Olympic bid. I have sent a letter to Ralph Lauren, hoping they will explain their manufacturing strategy and/or policy...and secretly hoping that I would be wrong about the whole thing (see below).
Congratulations on getting the USA Olympic Uniform bid again!
Besides the Olympic Collection, do you manufacture anything else in the Ralph Lauren line in the USA?
If yes, please let me know how I can find these items.
If no, do you plan anymore MiUSA items in the future?
Thanks for your time,
I did receive a reply from Ralph Lauren. Here it is:
Thank you for contacting RalphLauren.com customer assistance.
We apologize that we are unable to provide the informaiton requested. Ralph Lauren merchandise is manufactured and distributed throughout the United States and all over the world. The manufacturing country is specific to each item and can be located on the garment’s label. If an item is made in the USA, it will be listed under the details for the item on RalphLauren.com.
If you need further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us.
I do not see that response as there being a future in US manufacturing for Ralph Lauren, but if I am wrong, I do hope they will contact me back! I see this as being an opportunity for Ralph Lauren to be a role model for US manufacturers out there who have choices in their distribution channels. They can continue to donate to the CFDA, or they can change the way they do business and impact thousands of jobs and lives.
On the bright side, there are indeed some Olympic uniforms being produced in the USA.
Elite Sportswear, based out of Pennsylvania, manufacturers the entire US Olympic gymnast team uniforms. Elite sells wonderful gymnastics leotards to the public as well.
Boathouse Sports is also based in Pennsylvania and is led by a previous US Rowing Olympic team member. They provide the US Olympic Rowing Team their uniforms. Boathouse Sports provides consumers sports gear, outerwear and uniforms for a wide variety of sports including: lacrosse, soccer, track, hockey, tennis, wrestling, golf and many more.
If you know of any other teams that are wearing American made uniforms, do spread the word. Otherwise, comment below to show your support to expand the 'Team USA Made in America Act of 2012' to include uniforms in addition to ceremonial outfits!
And....have a great time watching the Olympics!
images credit: www.rio2016.com, www.ralphlauren.com, www.boston.com, www.gkelite.com, www.boathousecrewshop.com
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