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An American (made) in China?

According to NYTime by Eric Wilson, RALPH LAUREN has come under fire for producing its uniforms for the US Olympic team in China.

AT least since 1998, when the United States Olympic Committee first approached sportswear companies to liven up the look of its team, American athletes have worn ceremonial outfits that were manufactured in places far from home. For a decade, almost everything they wore to represent the United States at the opening and closing ceremonies was actually being designed and produced in Canada, by the sportswear company Roots, until the American company Ralph Lauren won those rights in 2008.

But an ABC News report this week that pointed out that the Ralph Lauren uniforms the athletes will wear in London, for the ceremonies on July 27, are made in China has prompted an unusual degree of outrage, at least in Congress. Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, told reporters on Thursday, “I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.”

This might have been a bit of grandstanding by Mr. Reid and other senators who piled on with condemning statements. But judging by consumer complaints to Ralph Lauren that have followed, the Chinese production appears to be a public-relations nightmare for the company. (On the other hand, one commentator described the fuss on an ESPN blog as “Freedom Fries, v. 2.0.”)

It should be noted here that the Ralph Lauren uniforms worn at the previous Olympics, in Beijing in 2008 and Vancouver in 2010, were also manufactured mostly overseas, prompting some outcry, but nothing like this.

When Roots was designing clothes for the American Olympians, the result was not controversy but a retail phenomenon: The company sold tens of thousands of its red, white and blue berets at the Salt Lake City games in 2002. Outfitting the Olympic team, as it does for courtside staff at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, has also become a lucrative business for Ralph Lauren, which sells versions of those clothes in its stores and online.

So the uproar has caught officials at Lauren by surprise. Ryan Lally, a company spokesman, said on Friday that it would not comment. But the Olympic committee, in a statement, noted that the American team, which is privately financed, relies on support from its sponsors. (As licensees, uniform makers, including those of competition clothing, typically pay 8 to 12 percent of their revenues on Olympic products to national organizing committees.)

“The U.S. Olympic Team is 100 percent privately funded,” said Patrick Sandusky, a committee spokesman. “We’re grateful for the support of our many sponsors, including the iconic American company, Ralph Lauren. Each of them provides America’s elite athletes with the goods, services and direct financial support that have allowed Team USA to be the most successful Olympic team in history and one that makes the entire country proud.”

As it stands, there is little chance that Ralph Lauren, with two weeks before the games, could produce enough uniforms domestically.

While Mr. Reid proposed that the team instead wear singlets, with “U.S.A.” printed on them, he did not address what should be done about all the athletes who compete in shoes, swimsuits, track shorts and even singlets that are also commonly produced outside of the United States, and have been for decades. Companies like Speedo and Nike make uniforms for competitors from other countries, as well, with colors customized by nationality. Perhaps it would have been simpler, and demonstrably jingoistic, to suggest going back to the ancient tradition of competing in the buff.

Recently, Ralph Lauren announced statement on Friday night that it would begin producing the American athletes’ uniforms in the United States beginning with the 2014 Olympics.

Source of information : NYTimes

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2012 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .
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