Ralph Lauren charges $2K/pop for Made in China Olympic outfits

At $2,000 a pop, the costumes supplied by Ralph Lauren to America's Olympic athletes are not cheap. But apparently, Mr Lauren and co still couldn't afford to pay American workers to sew them -- they were made in China. From the BBC:

The classic navy blue blazers, white trousers and skirts, and red-accented ties and berets may have a distinctly American look, but the label inside reads "Made in China", ABC News revealed.

"I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them. And start all over again," the Los Angeles Times quoted [Sen Harry Reid D-NV] as saying.

"I hope they wear nothing but a singlet that says 'USA' on it painted by hand. We have people in America working in the textile industry who are desperate for jobs," he concluded.

Also: Ralph Lauren once threatened to sue us for making fun of their cack-handed photoshopping.

London 2012: US Ralph Lauren uniform made in China (Thanks, Ben!)

(Image: thumbnail of a photo that is widely credited to AP, but which may be a Ralph Lauren publicity photo)


    1. When we’re talking about a worldwide event that is all about unbridled nationalism, why would you expect anything else? 

      What gives the Chinese textile worker more right to the job than an American worker? Should we not want to support our own economy and citizens where possible?

      1. “What gives the Chinese textile worker more right to the job than an American worker?” works just as well is you reverse it, and “Should we not want to support our own economy and citizens where possible?” is not a one-to-one comparison, because I can employ several Chinese people for the price of one American.

        1. Supporting cheap labor in china hurts everyone.  this country has a more effective system for making manufacturing ethical – and so that’s what you support when you support american labor.

    2. There is a nationalist component sure, but most Americans just don’t even care.  I mean I think most people know their flag stickers and magnets are made in China.  But painting all objections as “xenophobia” is ridiculous, you might as well paint all of U.S. labor, or those that want U.S. manufacturing to thrive and succeed as being motivated by “xenophobia”.

    3. Thinly veiled xenophobia? Hmm…although that might have been the case in the 70s and 80s when jingo-slinging mobs yelling anti-Japanese slogans took to destroying Japanese cars, it is not the case here. 

      Back in the 70s and 80s many American car models being produced were poorly designed and/or lemons and even dangerous. Americans bought Japanese cars because they were better. This caused reactionaries to become upset and react in irrationally and with xenophobia.

      The present situation is not xenophobia (mostly) and whatever xenophobia there is, it is not the cause. Many industries such as textiles, steel, shoes, electronics and many others were shipped to China resulting in economic hardship that has negatively affected at least 97 percent of Americans. The factories that were shut down were profitable, stable and doing great. This did not prevent production from being sent to China where labour  costs are much less. The lower labour costs are not, except for the dollar store stuff, reflected in the U.S. retail price. 

      So, I don’t think xenophobia has anything to do with Ralph Lauren manufacturing these $2000.00 U.S. Olympic Team uniforms in China. 

      Actually, I doubt it is a simple P.R. oversight or blunder on RL’s part. RL very likely factored in the likely public backlash when deciding to make the uniforms in China. They likely found the favour and goodwill generated with the Chinese government to far exceed the backlash here in the States. 

      People will express their outrage, vow never to buy RL again, then go back to buying RL a week or two later after they forget about it. RL on the other hand, when seeking Chinese governmental approval or help with a factory or some other project, will be able to point to their decision to manufacture the U.S. Olympic Team uniforms in China.  

      Forgot to add….Do we really think that the Chinese would appreciate, allow or even think of having their Olympic Team uniforms manufactured anywhere but China?

    4. It would be xenophobia if they had the same wage laws as we do here, instead it’s just exploitation of the poor. 

      1.  Who is exploiting the poor? American company. RL charges $2000 for one outfit, how much did they pay to get them made in China? It is American greed.

  1. It’s really sad how much fast fashion has moved upward. I guess design houses have figured out that people will pay the price for the sake of the price.

    1. Make sure to remind people of that when they start blathering on about rational people, and simple rules of supply and demand.

  2. The uniforms cost $2000 each and STILL have a big old polo pony on them for Ralph Lauren.   Usually, when an advertiser has to pay to put his or her name or logo on an athlete.

    1.  To be fair, the BBC article does not say that the USOC PAID $2000 each for the uniforms, only that they COST as much, which could be the cost of manufacturing. But yes, I’d always imagined that manufacturers paid to have their clothing on athletes, you know, as sponsors.

      That said, $2000 is enough for tailoring in the US too, especially for something that’ll only ever likely to be worn twice (opening and closing ceremonies).

      1. Do you really believe that it is even possible for the cost of manufacturing these clothes to approach $2000?  If Ralph Lauren charges $2000 for something, it probably cost the company about $100, that is the kind of markup they charge.

        1. I’m not disagreeing – the two very nice suits I bought in China a few years ago only costed me around 500 dollars each, and they are made with fancy imported Italian fabrics and all.

          I’m just saying since the article Cory cited does not mention that RL CHARGED $2000, only that they COST $2000. I’d imagine prestigious clothing companies would line up to sponsor the US Olympics team, for free, so it’s outrageous if USOC actually paid $2000 apiece for this shit. But $2000 as cost of manufacture is also outrageous, since that’s enough to get fine tailored suits made anywhere in the world unless you go for the most expensive Savile Row firms. $2000 suit made in China has to be made by the best paid tailors in the whole country with unicorn hair or something.

          Either RL is up to its usual preppy bullshit again, or the someone in the USOC is dense as hell, or getting tons of kickbacks. It’s most likely all three.

        1. Looks like you might be right: “The United States Olympic Committee is a charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Any gift you make is tax-deductible to the maximum extent allowed by law.” So that’s what? $2000 x 530 athletes = just over a million dollars in “charitable givings”.

          1. Wow, even though I wrote a lengthy comment above, I didn’t think of this. I think of this. However, I don’t think this is the main reason. They could have collected the deduction if the garb was made in the U.S. 

          2. cdh1971: Yes, they could get the deduction if they made it in the US, but their profit margin would be much smaller. Getting a deduction on a million dollars of donations that cost you $5 per athlete is more attractive than that deduction costing you $500 per athlete.

    2. Yeah, the over-sized advertisement for Lauren on the chest of the athletes is what makes me hate these uniforms. Made in China is just the extra insult.

      And that “distinctly American look” is very British…

      1. Yeah, nothing says American like a cool beret.  And to make it look even more dorky, they highlighted the thing with colour stripes, just to draw eye, I suppose.

      2. Indeed. I hate pretty much everything about these outfits:
        1) As pictured, the ramrod-straight unsmiling square-jawed men wearing berets look extremely military, even militaristic.
        2) The double-breasted suit jacket is anything but athletic; it’s extremely formal.
        3) A beret with a a badge of the Tricolor doesn’t exactly signify “American”, y’know.
        4) A Navy Blue naval blazer with two rows of brass buttons indeed looks more British than anything else.
        5) The previous two points are fine (nothing against France or Britain) except that this outfit is meant to be “distinctly American”.
        6) And then there’s the giant icon of some posh idiot playing polo

        The fact that Ralph Lauren claims they cost $2000 but nonetheless almost certainly massively underpaid the laborers involved (and this, rather than the laborers being in China, is the real issue) is just repugnant icing on the terrible, terrible cake.

        1. You’re right from a general perspective, but historically and within modern fashion circles this outfit is distinctly American while also being rather fashion-forward. 

          Double-breasted jackets are highly fashionable right now (have been for a couple of years – not a minor fad) and are not limited to formalwear, especially when worn with white trousers like here. Check out photos of what people are wearing at the big fashion shows in Italy and Paris – tons of relatively casual-looking double-breasted jackets, like these ones.

          And the navy jacket with brass buttons thing does seem British somehow, but is distinctly American despite its historical roots being in England (British historical versions typically are striped and in various colors). There is of course the similarity to the British naval uniform, but they are quite distinct. This American style came out of preppy traditions from the Northeast US – it’s basically yachting style – which was informed by the Northeast’s strong British roots but which quickly became its own thing.

          That said, I do agree that there are major missteps here, particularly the beret and the enormous logo. But lose the berets and the logo and everything else (including the unusual club collar on the shirt) is distinctly American and looks pretty good IMO. Other than the fact that to call these “uniforms” for athletes is pretty silly, but they will look surprisingly good at the opening and closing ceremonies in these compared to what you typically see. And I think it’s no mistake they’re making a strong statement here with their clothing for London in particular.

        2. “And then there’s the giant icon of some posh idiot playing polo…
          No, it’s the icon of a large clothing company run by a poseur who has capitalized on the sport’s image. While visible corporate trademarks certainly shouldn’t be allowed on athletes’ clothing while they are participating in the games, let alone required by a national team, you shouldn’t confuse Ralph Lifshitz’s marketing campaign with the sport of Polo.  Many polo players aren’t particularly rich, and good polo players are better athletes than you’ll find in many of the present sports played in the Olympics. Polo used to be in the games, and it should be again – provided someone comes up with a economical way to get the horses in the host country.

          1. There’s a polo field in Golden Gate Park, but in the 12 years that I lived next to it, there was only one match. If they played there regularly, I bet that they’d build up a following. It’s an opportunity to dress up, and that always goes over well in SF.

  3. Here’s an idea for all these congresspeople – perhaps they should either fund the olympic team themselves or STFU. These people are all for handing all government responsibilities off to private industry, then are surprised when private industry acts in its own self-interest.

    I’m very tired of a congress that thinks bitching about something absolves them of responsibility for it – they vote to keep private industry on easy street, and no amount of token whining about minor things like this is going to change that fact.

    1. This could be a good American ‘teachable moment’ about outsourcing, free trade, insane trade imbalance etc.  The rotten fruits of neoliberal policy as put forth by both Democrats and Republicans in the service of elite business…..

       I think it’ll pass unnoticed. 

  4. They seem to say a lot about the modern USA: paramilitary, private sponsor’s logo, overpriced and tacky.

    1. It’s like some WASPy, elite private school, authoritarian fantasy.  Like what outfits would look like in an American version of monarchy. King Romney’s Jr. Koch honor guard….

      1. Yes they do. 

        They also look like the corporate security thugs who aggressively march out of office buildings demanding you delete your camera’s memory card even though you happen to be on a public sidewalk.(Also, they kinda have some sort of Hugo Boss NAZI thing going on.)

  5. So I can see blazers and white pants having a distinctly American look, but berets? It’s as distinctly American as hot dogs served on fresh baguettes.

  6.  As a foreigner on these shores, if you asked me for a distinctly American fashion look I’d have to say white socks.  Everyone seems to do it, I can’t believe nobody realises how stupid it looks with dark trousers and shoes.

      1. Yes, but the German practice of wearing white socks and sandals looks okay and doesn’t stand out as anything but casual. I worked with a couple of German guys on a volunteer park maintenance crew and they wore these too. The looked just fine.

        The dark trousers and shoes with white socks, it hurts me inside when I see it. If I had to wear dark shoes and trousers and only had white socks, I would go sockless.

      2.  I recall seeing a group of stylish businessmen in northern Italy  in the mid-’80s all wearing white silk socks with their dark shoes and trousers.

        White cotton tube socks, on the other hand are pretty American / world-slob style.

  7. Yet NBC is getting their on-air talent Hickey Freeman suits and jackets, which are made in Rochester NY. Perhaps the USOC should have followed their lead

  8. Are there any clothing manufacturers in the US left? I thought they were all gone. And shouldn’t Ralph Lauren be paying them? Celebrities get free stuff, they just have to publicly wear it or using it. A sort of parasite that has a potential to kill its host, just look MC Hammer.

    1. Off the top of my head, there’s at least one clothing manufacturer in the U.S.; it’s right in downtown L.A., and it’s called, surprisingly enough, American Apparel!  Maybe someone missed the boat on this one?  Sure, maybe the company isn’t as “high fashion” as Ralph Lauren, but for something that’s going to be worn twice how much high fashion do you need?

      1. I like American Apparel but they don’t make high-end traditional American clothing (such as suits) – and they are kind of “high fashion” actually, and Ralph Lauren isn’t really – they’re more traditional. 

        Ralph Lauren was a good choice style-wise, but you’re right that they should have found a way to make their stuff in the US. There are still places in the US that make suits and things and for this relatively small run of uniforms they could have given a small manufacturer the contract with RL doing the tailoring. It probably would have cost far less than $2000 per outfit too.

        1. Ralph Lauren’s entire fashion ethos is making sure that nobody ever wears anything fun or interesting. He’s a one-man fashion empire crusade against the 1970s and 1980s.

  9. I want something that screams American.  And considering I live in the South nothing seems more appropriate than a pair of ratty jeans (or jean shorts) and a white wife beater.  Pickup a couple cans of Krylon (so you could write USA on them) and you’d have yourself some authentic American garb.

  10. I think they could have done it reality show style. Let any designer who wanted to submit a design enter a contest and then let the audience vote for the winning designer.  There could be rules and a budget that the designs would have to fit into. Anyone could enter, professional top names like Ralph Lauren, up and coming professionals, and passionate amateurs.   I’m thinking the first round of eliminations could be online.   Then the contestants face a panel of judges made up of current and former Olympic athletes, respected designers not entered in the contest, and a couple of Congress people.  Then the audience is turned loose to vote and pick a winner out of the panel’s group of final picks. 

    The first round would have weeded out the obviously unsuitable and ugly designs.  The panel round would fine tune it and weed out things that may have gotten a lot of votes but aren’t good designs (preventing the Sanjaya effect or things like sending Pitbull to Kodiak Alaska).  Then the final round would end up with the public being able to pick their favorite design from a group entirely of good designs. 

    It would generate more interest in the Olympics and the outfits and would eliminate controversy over who was chosen to design or how much they charged or where they were made or what they looked like.

  11. YAY! Good job America for out-sourcing your Olympic outfits. Our American athletes can go to the podium with their heads held high wearing the Chinese flag on their backs. LOL I know its trivial but its not exactly like Any other country out there will be competing with Made in USA outfits… And considering China is in the Olympics too, I really dont care about the jobs of Chinese Textile workers cause my guess is they are making outfits for their own. I mean its just good that we can still support a communist country! hahahahahaha yes that was sarcastic.

  12. When the USA stops subsidising its agriculture and undercutting third world producers, they will at least have some sort of moral high ground.  In the meantime this sort of statement is merely hypocrisy.

  13. Is there anything more currently American than  buying things – clothing especially – made in China? I recall an NPR interview not that long ago where someone was trying to live for a year using/purchasing nothing made in China, and was unable to do so.

    1. The only thing more American than buying things is getting outraged at people who buy things that aren’t made in America.

  14. I love watching the Olympics and I know that viewers would tune in BY THE DOUBLE if our male swimming divers and female volleyball players alike dressed in skimpy American Apparel outfits….it would also be a boon for US workers too!

  15. I find it amusing how this has gotten Americans riled up, yet no one seems to bat an eye at the militaristic style of the outfit. You’re going to the Olympics which is supposed to be about global togetherness and all that, and you’re dressed like you’re going to war. Distasteful, but not particularly surprising given how Americans are raised by their society to love the military.

    1. Daily News was kinda funny:

      The navy, white and red ensembles, replete with Team USA Ceremony beret, manage to convey the look of an upscale flight attendant with that of a guerrilla fighter (by way of Greenwich, Connecticut).

      1. That’s a good description but I’m really not getting a military vibe from these like everyone else seems to – other than from the beret. Give them an old-school captain’s hat instead and they’d look like prep school douchebags on their dad’s yacht at Martha’s Vineyard.

        That look comes from naval uniforms, of course, but is completely transformed by the context. And even most naval uniforms don’t look that militaristic and aggressive compared to the other military branches. 

        I clearly have an unusual perspective compared to everyone else, for some reason… Ralph Lauren and whoever approved these designs must have a similar perspective and we’re clearly all out of touch with how everyone else perceives these kinds of things ;)

        1. Swapping the beret for an old-school captain’s hat would make Someone Who is Not Me’s cousin’s Front-Bottom shiver. 

          Plus, I think the captain’s hat would be a better idea than the beret.

        2. I’m really not getting a military vibe

          The first thing that came to my mind was this.

  16. I, for one, am shocked that a capitalist would place profit ahead of country – especially for a competition as pure and honest as the Olympics.

    This is an outrage.

  17. Oddly the Raplh Lauren site keeps asking me if I am from the UK (I am from and in Canada). Maybe they are working under some future plans where Canada has been returned to direct UK rule and the USA and China have merged.

  18. I would be willing to bet that Astor & Black, a maker of bespoke suits here in Columbus OH, would have beat Ralphie’s price quite handily.

    1. Hey, we produce real Vermont Cheddar. And real Vermont Maple Syrup. And….I don’t really know if the other 49 produce anything.

    2.  The US doesn’t have any domestic war. 
      Wars break things and are ugly and noisy. 
      Better to have those in foreign countries. 

  19. At the first Gay Games, the Brazilian team marched into the stadium in see-through pants.  After that, everybody else’s uniforms look pretty sad.

  20. Don’t we already have a statue of MLK on display in Washington that was also made in China.  Of course the Statue of liberty was made in France…

  21. Aside from the berets, they look like Romney’s bastard children–or Thurston Howell III’s yacht crew (didn’t Howell have a suit like this on “Gilligan’s Island”?)

  22. “Also: Ralph Lauren once threatened to sue us for making fun of their cack-handed photoshopping.”

    The ripples of the Streisand Effect last a loooooong time!

  23. British?  really?  I find the design very French in theme and feel.  *shrug*   Given everything else going on in the U.S…. shouldn’t we all be a little less worried about the Olympic Uni and a bit MORE worried about things like cultists trying to become President?  o.O 

  24. any hat other than the beret. Maybe pub caps (maybe too Brit) or boater hats or maybe just plain baseball caps. Hell cowboy hats would’ve been more appropriate. Also I guess it’s too late to ditch the branded double breasted jacket. Single breasted would’ve been just fine and a lot less pointy. Oh well, maybe the outfit does reflect our actual values and that’s why we’re so pissed.

  25. To me, the real problem with the uniforms is that they are hideous. RL lost his sense of style a long time ago. It’s time for him to retire.

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