Ralph Lauren’s Team USA outfits are as patriotic as they appear.
Jeanne Carver was on her ranch in July 2012, watching her sheep graze as they began their nocturnal migration to their bedding grounds, when she received a call from what she assumed was a yarn store. Instead, Carver, owner of Imperial Stock Ranch in Shaniko, Ore., soon learned that the call came from Ralph Lauren’s product development team in New York.
After coming under fire for outsourcing Team USA’s Summer 2012 Olympics apparel in China, Ralph Lauren contracted Carver to begin weaving together a supply chain that would outfit America’s Olympians in Made in America clothing from head to toe, starting with the sheep who provided the wool needed to knit Team USA’s sweaters for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Thus began Ralph Lauren’s mission to source and manufacture every component of its Olympic uniforms in America, a commitment the company has sustained for three Olympic games, including the 2018 Winter Olympics.
This year, Carver again supplied wool for Team’s USA clothing, initiating a supply chain that produced opening and closing ceremony outfits for more than 700 Team USA athletes and staff members at this year’s Olympic and Paralympic competitions in PyeongChang, South Korea.
American manufacturers, ranging from companies in operation for decades to those still establishing themselves in the marketplace, contributed to the production of Ralph Lauren’s collection.
“We did it because it’s not only special to our company, our employees, including the guys on the floor that developed and made this yarn, and the management team, it’s important to the United States of America and to the Olympics. We were just thrilled to have the opportunity.” Jim Chessnut, CEO of National Spinning
During the parade of nations in the opening ceremony, Team USA athletes will wear a parka in red, white and blue made by Better Team USA in Clifton, N.J.; moto-inspired jeans made by ROICOM in El Paso, Texas; a knit vintage-inspired ski sweater made by Ball of Cotton in Commerce, Calif.; a wool ski hat and base layers made by Andari in El Monte, Calif.; and shearling gauntlet gloves made by Echo in New York, N.Y.
The closing ceremony will feature a water-repellant white bomber jacket made by Better Team USA; a wool sweater and mittens made by Andari; navy double-fleece joggers made by Ferrara Manufacturing in New York, N.Y.; and a knit hat made by Ball of Cotton.
For both ceremonies, Team USA athletes will wear brown suede mountaineering boots made by Allen Edmonds in Port Washington, Wis.; a canvas belt with cowhide belt tabs made by Magna Leather in El Paso, Texas; socks made by Renfro Corporation in Cleveland, Tenn., for Hot Sox; embellishments made by Trimworld in New York, N.Y.; and a bracelet handcrafted by Scosha in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Ralph Lauren’s patriotically themed outfits may evoke classic Americana, but the uniforms were manufactured using cutting-edge technology.
To combat the gusts of Siberian winds and temperatures as low as 11 degrees Fahrenheit in PyeongChang, Ralph Lauren integrated thin, lightweight heating components that will keep the athletes warm for up to 11 hours into Team USA’s jackets.
This heating technology, developed by DuPont Advanced Materials, is composed of conductive stretchable silver and carbon inks that instantly heat when powered by a battery within the jackets.
The inks were printed onto the jackets’ interiors in the shape of the American flag by family-owned high-precision membrane printer Butler Technologies in Butler, Pa.
“Ralph Lauren has effortlessly woven style and functionality into the opening ceremony uniform for the 2018 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams,” said Lisa Baird, the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) chief marketing officer, in Ralph Lauren’s press release.
Through its Team USA collections, Ralph Lauren has championed America’s athletes and manufacturers and brought the world’s attention to the quality of American production. This support has ensured the survival and success of several of the company’s production partners.
Wei Wang, who owns and operates Andari alongside his sister, Ilona Wang, came close to shuttering the business his parents founded in 1999 when the recession hit in 2008.
Rather than abandon their U.S. facility, the Wangs adapted their production model to embrace quality over quantity—a switch that caught the attention of Ralph Lauren as its production development team sought manufacturers for the 2014 Olympic games.
Through the media exposure working with Ralph Lauren garnered, the Wangs were able to find more work for their factory.
Currently, Andari employs 130 people, but the Wangs have plans for further expansion.
Carver of Imperial Stock Ranch, who has advocated for the revival of America’s textile industry since 1999, also said that “hundreds of companies and brands” expressed interest in working with Imperial Stock Ranch following her collaboration with Ralph Lauren, which continued beyond the Olympics.
In utilizing supply chains in the United States for their Olympic collections, Ralph Lauren helped form new relationships among manufacturers and reinforce long-standing ones, safeguarding a symbiotic ecosystem of manufacturers and producers.
Carver has fought to protect and cultivate this network as the only means of sustaining the productivity of her ranch’s sheep.
“Without our processing and manufacturing partners, we have nothing … I have a raw material that I can’t get rid of or that has no value anymore, but with them as partners, they can with their expertise bring it to product stage, and we’re all stronger,” Carver said. “We’re stronger as a nation by keeping these connections viable in this country.”
However, producing items for Ralph Lauren’s Team USA collection has also been a labor of love that involved late nights and last-minute revisions to accommodate stringent USOC regulations.
“We did it because it’s not only special to our company, our employees, including the guys on the floor that developed and made this yarn, and the management team, it’s important to the United States of America and to the Olympics. We were just thrilled to have the opportunity,” said Jim Chessnut, CEO of employee-owned National Spinning, which spun and dyed Imperial Stock Ranch’s wool for Ralph Lauren’s knitwear.
Several of Ralph Lauren’s Winter Olympics 2018 production partners feel personally connected to the Olympic mission and have been affiliated with the games outside of their roles as manufacturers.
“Without our processing and manufacturing partners, we have nothing … I have a raw material that I can’t get rid of or that has no value anymore, but with them as partners, they can with their expertise bring it to product stage, and we’re all stronger,” Carver said. “We’re stronger as a nation by keeping these connections viable in this country.” Jeanne Carver, Imperial Stock Ranch
Scosha Woolridge, the designer and owner of Scosha, once trained to compete in the Olympics as a 100-meter hurdler, and Carver has coached the U.S. National Team in Track and Field and served on the U.S. Olympic Development Committee.
Unfortunately, though dozens of manufacturers in America eagerly contributed to this year’s Winter Olympics, when the world watches America’s Olympians collect their medals, they will be clothed in Nike’s Medal Stand Collection, largely manufactured overseas. Similarly, the vast majority of competition uniforms are made in offshore factories.
Ralph Lauren has earned a gold medal for its contributions to the Olympics, but other companies have yet to follow.
The 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place on Friday at 6 a.m. ET, and the Closing Ceremony will take place on Feb. 25 at 6 a.m. ET. The events will be streamed live via NBC's website and its app, and there will be a primetime television broadcast at 8 p.m. ET.
Polo Ralph Lauren’s Made in America Team USA collection is available for sale online. Royalties from the sales go to the United States Olympic Committee.