Fashionable, American & Outsourced
Originally I was saving my blog on Olympic uniforms for next week, but with the hubbub about Ralph Lauren's designs being made in China, I thought I'd move it up. Kyle wrote a good piece about outsourcing Olympic wears on Monday so be sure to check it out for a full write-up on the issue. I want to focus more on the actual styles as well as the benefits of the made-in-China concern.
Based on the uniforms for the 1948 games in London, the uniforms harken back to a post-war fashion era with calf-length skirts, fitted blazers and ornate scarves. People have argued that the socks and loafers are a bit dated and perhaps juvenile, but I'd imagine they are much more comfortable than traipsing around in heels. A broken ankle does not lead to medaled glory.
Again these are based on the 1948 games, but the argument could be made that all of Ralph Lauren's styles are based on 1940s sensibilities. The men's uniforms are classic with white slacks, navy blazers and red, white and blue ties. Any good corporate salesperson knows a blazer completes an ensemble.
I actually like the berets. They are far better than the oversized white ones from 2008. They offer a uniform look from head to toe and the ability to spot the U.S. team when NBC inevitably does a crowd scan at the opening ceremonies. As for the prominent Ralph Lauren logo, can you blame him? He is designing the Team USA uniforms for the Olympics. That is pretty incredible. I would probably plaster my face on there so everyone knew I designed the American wears. Plus it is great advertising because the uniforms and other USA gear are available online and in the Ralph Lauren stores.
The uniforms are made in China. Politicians are aghast. The American public is outraged. I understand why, but why now? The outsourcing was no secret when Lauren was first contracted to design the uniforms four years ago (his factories have been based in China for over 10 years) plus other uniform suppliers like Nike have factories abroad, so why is it a big deal now? The International Herald Tribune blog Rendezvous pointed out that this is an election year so political pandering could be at play, but maybe that is a good thing.
This outcry could be the push American manufacturing needs. Many election campaign products have already moved toward U.S. production. The 2014 Team USA uniforms will be made on American soil. Perhaps a U.S. manufacturing comeback really is on the horizon.
As professionals who sell uniforms, what are your thoughts? How big of a deal are outsourced U.S. uniforms? How would you have handled the sale or creation of these uniforms differently?