15 July, 2012

"Sunday Runway, Playing with Fire . . . "



Greeting,

(edited and expanded from my facebook posting yesterday)

I've actually been avoiding this discussion - because one's views rarely improve upon the silence when the subject of politics comes up - but, maybe I can chime in. I worked for Ralph for almost 15 years - from 1988 until 2002 . . . and have seen a great deal of his business change and evolve over that time period as well as in the years since I moved on.  I can clearly remember when the entire company was owned directly and uniquely by Mr. Lauren. Those were the days when we had huge decorative budgets, opened fabulous, glamorous stores - hell, we even had amazing floral budgets to make shopping in the stores an experience. Then the company went public. We, overnight, became answerable to stockholders.  And the business of retailing changed. 




Even ten years ago - while I was still with Polo - most of the company's manufacturing took place overseas.  The globalization of the clothing industry was well underway.  The higher price-point items produced either here in the US - or in England and Italy . . . the lower price-point items in China and elsewhere. And frankly, that same division of manufacturing exists with most every other major designer and retailer in this country.  That is just the current landscape of manufacturing.  


You might not like that fact - and I can understand being disappointed that items for our Olympic teams were produced outside our borders - but, the vitriolic response to this situation feels seriously misplaced.  The accusation of "traitor" feel more than just a little hyperbolic.  Instead of cries that we should “Burn the uniforms” (and it’s always worrisome when Harry Reid and Donald Trump are in agreement about anything- lol) - I'd much rather the situation open a conversation about re-engaging manufacturing here in the US.  The truly disappointing realization is that we, as a nation, are consumers.  Not manufactures.     






And as far as Ralph’s involvement in all of this - it’s not as if he had promised to produce these garments in the US - and then maliciously took the orders to China under the cover of darkness.  Ralph Lauren manufactures clothing in China.  The Olympic uniforms for the last several years were manufactured in China.  As I understand it, these are clothes that are privately funded. And in response to those paying the bill for these uniforms - they should be produced at a competitive price.   


I’m ALL for national pride. But, you should most likely take a good long look at the American flag wafting in the breeze in your front yard. Most likely, it was made in China too.


Cheers,
Scot

31 comments:

Patty said...

Thank you for being brave and publishing this post. Even if I didn't agree with your opinion, (and I do agree with all of it - especially the part about Harry Reid and Donald Trump)I would admire the fact that you took a risk. Some of us just keep silent when we know not everyone agrees with us. Bravo!
Why are we so quick to point the finger when it is us who demand inexpensive, up-to-the-minute, disposable clothing. Is there anyone left in the US who could have even manufactured the Olympic uniforms? My understanding is that almost all textile mills and most clothing production has been off-shore for years.

Anonymous said...

And what about all the philanthropy work Ralph Lauren does. http://global.ralphlauren.com/en-gb/About/Philanthropy/Pages/default.aspx

hinesalmy said...

have the uniforms for Team USA been made in the USA since the 70's? probably not.

Bruce Barone said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you give your thoughts and then hit the share button and send it out. It gives people something to think about. We need to go back to being manufactors and not just consumers. Good for you, ye brave Scot.
Scotwife ~ CAS

Cyndia said...

The idea that manufacturing is dead in America is something we all should be screaming to the rafters about, but we are not. When was the last time most of us purchased clothing made in the US? Probably a very long time. It isn't right that our Olympic team should be wearing anything other than American made, but there it is. Surely seamstresses could have been employed here to make them for the same money?

I appreciate you having the courage to post what you did. We need to be having a conversation about how to bring back manufacturing to this country, rather than pointing fingers and blaming. And we need to be making conscious choices as to what and where we buy our products. Do we support superstores or do we support Mom & Pop stores? This didn't just happen to us; we let it happen through our choices.

Denise said...

Well said my friend and thanks so much for addressing! I could not agree more!

Neal said...

Scott, I completely agree with you. My initial thought on this mattter was to wonder where the complainers' clothes are made. Yes, it's sad what's happened to US manufacturing. However, the obsession with paying less and less for everything, coupled with trade policies likely written by many of these same righteously-indignant chaps have caused this situation, not Ralph Lauren. It infuriates me to see Ralph's reputation besmirched like this.

Karen said...

Oh my! So VERY well stated!

Mr.Lauren and all the rest are just fulfilling the enormous consumer need to shop seven days a week (although Ralph Lauren does it with such style:)

I SO wish it was different - having manufacturing done here - and maybe someday it will eventually return, little by little.

helen tilston said...

Thank you for explaining the history of Ralph Lauren. Just recently some friends and I were commenting on how frumpy Ralph Lauren's line has become. I do remember going to his flagship store in NYC in the 90's and the excitement and buzz was magical.
Your point on flags is well taken

Helen

Pigtown*Design said...

I agree 100% with what you said and "liked" it yesterday on Facebook.

I was on the Board at Fort McHenry in Baltimore for a number of years. The Fort is where the National Anthem was written. And the flag that flew over the Fort was at the Smithsonian, and rotting and falling apart from age.

Ralph Lauren sponsored the restoration of the flag - a multi year project because the flag is 30x40 feet(ish). And it had to be attached to a linen backing, tiny stitch by tiny stitch. It was a massive job, and thank god that Mr. Lauren & Co. stepped up to the plate and funded it. Otherwise the flag that we honour in our national anthem would no longer exist except as a pile of threads in a few years.

Lori said...

Patty said it all for me, the hypocrisy of Trump and Reid slays me (although I'm not at all surprised). I have always worked in textiles - clothing and home- also including a stint for Ralph Lauren. The lack of concern for the overseas migrating of manufacturing is astounding. We bailed out automotive companies, but at one time the U.S. garment industry was LARGER and the government was more than happy to watch it implode.

Blaming Ralph Lauren isn't the answer. Hell, at least he built a company that employs thousands of people in this country.

An Urban Cottage said...

A lot of our clothing is made in China is because most people haven't paid attention. Brands and designers would certainly never advertise that their manufacturing moved overseas. It wasn't until I read a blog post about a year ago that I even looked at the tags on my clothes to see where they were made. I was happy to find a local company called Ball and Buck that sells only clothing and accessories for men that are made in the USA. They used to list all of their sources which was helpful but I think they've stopped it. But, it's going to be hard to bring that manufacturing back to the U.S. because everyone will have to pay more. I'm afraid that most are things are made in China because they WANT to go to Target and pay $19.00 for a lamp or $29.00 for a Missoni pouf. It's a tough problem to fix.

Lee said...

Ralph Lauren frumpy... I DON"T THINK SO!
Well said Scott!

sallie said...

Bless you for saying with your blog platform what so many of us without your voice are thinking!

Alexandra Rae said...

OMG Scot! Thank you! I just had a huge argument with dinner guest last night as I was trying to make the same point! Wake up people!! I hate that Ralph Lauren has become the sacrificial lamb for this misdirected, ignorant witch hunt. If you are so bothered, maybe it's time you take note of your own political choices and economic complacency that has led all American industry down this path. Where exactly did these people think the uniforms the athletes will wear, platform the athletes will stand on and the flags they'll carry were made anyway? "Oh, but it's supposed to be a special representation of America..." Nothing but the fact that these uniforms were made overseas could be more aptly representative of America in 2012. Now, that we have the attention of these ignorant, self-righteously indignant people, might we talk about free trade. I want to repost all the comments from people who have worked with RL; especially the ironic story of his funding the restoration of that American flag at the Smithsonian!

Scot Meacham Wood said...

Hey y'all - I had an email from Alexandra (the comment above) that she had meant to say 'fair trade' and not 'free trade.'.

And thanks to everyone for your thoughtful, measured responses.

Cheers,
Scot

Fairhope Supply Co. said...

Love Ralph Lauren, but not so sure about the berets, no matter where they are made!

Great post.

Michelle A. said...

Great post from an insider's point of view. I read another this morning more on the 'privately funded' point you made - thought you might enjoy: http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/us-olympic-uniforms-and-the-responsibility-of-ownership/

Lori said...

Apparently Mitt Romney was in charge of the Olympics in 2002 and outsourced the uniforms to Burma. Wonder how that will play on Fox.

Laura@Developing Designs said...

Great post and insight....
It's never ceases to amaze me the path that we are on...and what politicians get so worked up about.

One of the positives to this story, is that awareness is key to getting back on track. So many of us walk around simply not knowing.

Also, call me crazy, I thought it was a little bit hypocritical that the same government that banned the incandescent lightbulb, requiring ALL Americans to switch over to CFL bulbs....forgot to mention that there was NOT one single manufacturer in the good ol' USA making them. But, yet we all were suppose to buy them.

Your American Flag comment...spot on, sad, but true (why I LOVE my antique ones). :)

I think it was not to long ago that the Smithsonian Museum gift shops was in the news about something similar. Want to buy a souvenir at a museum that is owned by the people of the United States....check that tag!....It just might say "Made in China"...

It is a HUGE problem with so many things manufactured. The issue runs deep..... :(

Megan said...

Well said Scot! Your response to the current "situation" is one of the best and well thought out I have heard yet. I think people forget that we Canadians and Americans ARE nations of Consumers and not Manufacturers. It is just a Fact plain and simple. Until that changes no one should be sptting vitriole at any company, never mind Ralph Lauren, who we all know is fiercely patriotic. And to say otherwise is pure crap!! Thanks as always for a great post.

Mikky said...

Great post! And those people who are complaining should look at the things they are purchasing for their own personal use. It is a complicated situation I have seen plenty of local businesses go under because they can't compete on cost vs. abroad, it is very sad, but as individuals there is really not much you can do.

:)
mikky
www.todaloos.com

Anonymous said...

I saw this on the news and thought it was just crazy. I am Canadian, and our Olympic uniforms for Beijing were made in China. Like you said it is all outsourced. I just thought it so inappropriate for a politician to make such crazy/radical statements. I wish people were not so vocally dumb.

People should check their American Flags......all made in China. Just saying.

shiree segerstrom said...

Thank you for the insights Scot. Looking forward to hearing about your sojourn to Manhatten. Shiree'

CeceliaMc said...

Thanks for an objective post on this subject.

I think that all of us suburbanites and small town folks remember the days of vibrant down-town scene of prosperous local businesses and a sense of community.

I too would like to see more of a national discussion of these matters without it degenerating into a polemic wrestling match.

Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital would certainly be an opportunity for us to do just that.

However, it's a pity that election year politics will drown out all but the most partisan and simplistic of voices.

No, matter the results of the election, here's hoping that in the future this topic will be part of a reasoned national dialogue.

Stephanie said...

Hello,
Great post and you made the point. We, as consumers, have the power to say NO to what is produced overseas and prefer local production. But who is really checking the label and who is really willing to pay the price of local manufacturing?? For years I have been checking the labels of nearly every clothes I am buying and the struggle is there. It is us whit our choices who can change things, but screaming with no acting will have no effect.

5th and State said...

brilliant post scot. so succinct and spot on!

people choose to ignore this situation so they can buy, buy, buy. quality, no. quantity and instant is de rigeur.
debra
ps; loved the RL story, fascinating!

nancy said...

I have to say that I blame the consumer for much of what has happened in this country. For years & years now people have been saying they want an inexpensive product...meaning cheap! Come on folks. Quality costs money. We have to be willing to let manufacturers make a fair profit on their product. Stop shopping at those nasty "discount" stores and start shopping from local, small businesses whenever possible.

cindy said...

Well said Scot. The last time we let politics become involved in the olympics it was disastrous.

Anonymous said...

I love Ralph Lauren and I love your blog!!! What I don't love is what has happened to the US. There is a sasying that "the country that fails to produce cannot survive"!!!! This country doesn't make anything anymore...steel, rubber, textiles...all gone!!! We are to blame for part of this....by the way we VOTE and for keeping our elected representatives in office. I know that this country was founded on trade...fair trade...not free trade!!! A lot of people in the US don't know that the US has a TRADE REPRESENTATIVE..they are appointed ..not elected!!! THey make the trade deals behind "closed doors" and are usually done without anyone knowing. That is until some watchdogs decided to see what the WTO, NAFTA,FTAA and other trade deals are all about!!! Thank you for breinging to light some of the problems and reasons for problems such as this and I have made sure that my flag which flies from my house is made in America. Keep up th good work...you are a delight!!!!

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