In this contentious election year, Democrats and Republicans have found an issue to bond over in shared outrage: the Ralph Lauren Olympic athlete uniforms. When the Opening Ceremony outfits were revealed earlier this week, the commentary was limited to the aesthetics (those berets proved to be highly divisive) but now it’s become a little darker. Turns out the entire uniform was manufactured in China, and Americans–from designers to Congress–are chafing.
This issue started to heat up yesterday (read the beginning of the saga here) and now it’s reached boiling point. ABC News asked designer Nanette Lepore, who is an outspoken supporter of NYC’s Garment Center and manufacturing in the US, what she thought about the uniforms. “Why shouldn’t we have pride, not only in the American athletes, but in the American manufacturers and laborers who are the backbone of our country?” Lepore asked. Members of Congress are now asking the same question.
Yesterday Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D., N.Y.) sent the following statement to the US Olympic committee:
When America’s best athletes are representing our country on the world stage, we should be representing the best of American-made goods. The pride of our Olympic athletes goes hand-in-hand with the pride in American innovation and manufacturing. We shouldn’t be going to the world stage with anything less. From head to toe, Team USA must be made in America.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even went so far as to say that the uniforms should be put in a big pile and burned. “If they have to wear nothing but a singlet saying USA on it painted by hand, that’s what they should do,” the senator said at a press conference.
So what does Ralph Lauren and the US Olympic Committee (USOC) have to say in response? Ralph Lauren is pleading the fifth on this one right now–reps for the company declined comment to WWD (we reached out for a statement as well). And according to the Wall Street Journal, the USOC released the following statement:
Unlike most Olympic teams around the world, the U.S. Olympic Team is privately funded and we’re grateful for the support of our sponsors. We’re proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company, and excited to watch America’s finest athletes compete at the upcoming Games in London.
So tell us what you think: Should Ralph Lauren pony up some American made goods for our athletes?