The Olympic uniforms for London 2012 have been stirring up controversy, partially because of the silly beret but mainly because the Ralph Lauren pieces were manufactured in China. First pundits got their two cents in, then American fashion designers voiced their displeasure and then politicos like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid jumped into the fray.
Now it's American Apparel's turn. The clothing company, which prides itself on manufacturing in the United States, spoke with Fashionista about potentially designing 2014 Olympic uniforms for, of all places, Russia. (Apparently Russia is trying to avoid manufacturing in China, too.) In the same conversation, an American Apparel rep commented on the Ralph Lauren uniform debacle with an interesting offer:
The American Apparel factory makes more than 50 million garments a year and that isn’t all for our stores. A huge part of the company’s business is wholesale and private label -- we can basically make anything for anyone. Our prices are completely competitive, especially when you factor in the quality control and speed to market. American Apparel could start working on uniforms today and have them in London within 7 days. That’s what vertical integration is about.
Seven days? Damn, Dov.
We doubt Ralph Lauren wants to let American Apparel steal its thunder, nor should the current uniforms go to waste, but it is a wonder that a company like American Apparel wasn't asked to design the Team USA kit to begin with. (Although they may get a chance when Ralph Lauren's contract with the U.S. Olympics expires in 2020.) Also, while we're at it, why is Dov Charney's company in talks with Russia to make their uniforms?
But perhaps the question looming above them all is this: why are we so hot and bothered about this now? Ralph Lauren has been designing and manufacturing the U.S. Olympic uniforms for years; time after time, the uniforms' origin in China has been exposed. In 2008, Reuters reported that Chinese tailors had a hand in Ralph Lauren's U.S. uniforms for the Beijing Olympics, prompting a similar if not smaller-scale debate over manufacturing.
Yet something this time around seems different, the un-American nature of America's Olympic garb gets everyone all riled up... well, everyone except Mitt Romney. The Republican presidential nominee has refused to take a stand on the issue, merely saying, "The Olympic Games are about the athletes ... and these other matters are extraneous, I think."
Perhaps he's holding back because of his own culpability: in 2002, while overseeing the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney outsourced the production of torchbearer uniforms to Burma, a country then controlled by a brutal military regime.
Do you think Ralph Lauren should take American Apparel up on the deal? Do you think Ralph Lauren should continue to design Team USA's uniforms? Or is everyone make a big deal over nothing?
Read more about Romney's 2002 Olympic uniforms here and click to Fashionista.com to read more about American Apparel's offer.
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