When the 2012 U.S. Olympic team parades around Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, they are expected to be wearing attire from designer Ralph Lauren, made in China, ABC News reported. The report drew criticism from politicians on the selection of a non-U.S.-based manufacturer, and several representatives have sent letters to the U.S. Olympic Committee urging the purchase of clothing made in the U.S.
Last week Des Plaines Mayor Martin Moylan and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) sent letters to Lawrence Probst III, chairman of the USOC, asking the committee to consider Des Plaines-based suit-maker Hart, Schaffner & Marx, also known as Hartmarx, 1680 E. Touhy Ave., for future Olympic attire.
“Precision and pride are what Hartmarx Is all about,” Moylan stated. “… I feel confident that Hartmarx, one of our own local gems, could do the job for you.”
The Hartmarx plant was in danger of closing in 2009 when, while in bankruptcy protection, the company’s main creditor, Wells Fargo, threatened to cut off future funding if it chose a London-based investment firm, Emerisque, as its buyer, the New York Times reported.
Efforts by politicians, including Des Plaines Mayor Martin Moylan, helped keep the plant from closing, Journal & Topics Newspapers reported.
“I am disappointed to hear that at a time when so many Americans are out of work, the manufacture of Team USA’s formal uniforms for the 2012 Olympics was outsourced to China,” Schakowsky stated. “American manufacturing has always been a vibrant thread in the fabric of our nation’s history, and our athletes should be wearing uniforms with Made in America labels.”
Scott Blackmun, USOC CEO, stated the committee took the concerns raised by Congress members seriously, but for this year’s games, it was too late to change plans.
“We are absolutely committed, however, to working with our sponsors to ensure that the concerns voiced are addressed,” Blackmun stated. “To that end, Ralph Lauren has agreed to domestically manufacture Team USA's apparel for Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.”
Not everyone is a fan of the design of the Opening Ceremony uniforms. Christina Binkley, fashion reporter at the Wall Street Journal, said she didn’t like the use of a Ralph Lauren pony logo that was three times the size of the American flag and Olympic Rings. She said the use of berets was also peculiar.
“It really is a French resistance fighter look,” Binkley said. “I can’t explain why they went with that, but it is an unusual look for Americans.
City Council approved assisting Hart, Schaffner & Marx with a federal grant application earlier this year that could net the suit-maker $1.5 million in federal funds to hire more employees and expand and modernize operations.