There’s been a lot of grumbling — OK, controversy — about the Made in China labels on the uniforms manufactured for American competitors to wear at the Olympic games. Why aren’t they Made in America? For the Chinese entrepreneur who runs the Dayang Trands business that makes the outfits (worth $300 million, in U.S. dollars) the answer is simple:
“Can America really make the suits we make?” asked Li Guilian, company chief. “We have cheaper costs here so you can have cheaper prices in America.”
She’s heard the complaints and jingoistic chest thumping from Americans about the Chinese-made Ralph Lauren blazers and slacks the U.S. athletes are wearing and shrugs it off.
Her reply: Americans should pay more attention to the performances of U.S. athletes, not their clothes.
Ouch. Listen closely and you can hear the bristling among and raised hackles of people who argue it’s a red, white and blue issue — not just Red.
Li, a farmer’s daughter, started her career sewing aprons and is unapologetic about her business.
Now her company cranks out 5 million suits a year for companies like Banana Republic and DKNY.
She pays workers at least $500 a month — a range of $6,300 to $9,500 a year. It may sound paltry by U.S. standards, but it’s a decent living wage in China.
She also is concerned about workers’ welfare and dispels perceptions of a sweatshop image.
Li plays soothing elevator music to help calm factory workers, for example — but she said it can barely be heard above the non-stop hum of sewing machines.
She realizes the furor over Chinese-made Olympic suits is part of a broader issue many Americans have about how much manufacturing should be done abroad.
About half of clothing purchased in America is made in China.
“Don’t you think we deserve credit?” she said. “We’ve made so many customers happy over the years.”
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