We’ve tended to use the blog as a forum to celebrate rather than castigate. To highlight those companies who commit to American manufacturing rather than heap scorn upon those who relocate production to foreign shores.
But a recent experience demands our opprobrium.
Yesterday’s mail brought the new catalog from Brooks Brothers featuring its Red Fleece collection.
While there has been much to bemoan from Brooks Brothers over the past generation, there were a few bright spots in the catalog: made-in-the-USA partnerships with Red Wing, Kiel James Patrick and Filson; ties still manufactured domestically.
But these are the exception.
The bulk of the collection is still produced overseas, in what I have to suppose are less than savory locales. Items made in the USA, the United Kingdom and Italy are carefully marked as such. Other items hide behind the craven descriptor, “imported.”
I’m sure Brooks Brothers would claim that it’s perfectly satisfied with the working conditions in its overseas factories. Why then, I wonder, does it feel the need to obfuscate behind that Orwellian label?
Still, this is standard-level outrage. Brooks Brothers is hardly alone in this practice.
Page 10 is where things really went south. A young couple are standing on a snow covered landscape. He is holding a pair of skis. She is holding a large American flag. Had Brooks Brothers finally begun to manufacture at least some of its women’s clothing in the USA?
Not on your life. Every stitch of clothing on that page was “imported.” So the flag belied the origins of the clothing and became nothing more than a meaningless prop.
To use the American flag to sell goods not produced in the U.S. is more than a little deceptive. Whether it meets the legal definition of fraud I cannot say. But I do know it represents a serious ethical breach, an example of chicanery that a company like Brooks Brothers should have no part of. It misrepresents the clothes in a serious–and morally indefensible–way.
And, in a manner I’m certain the company did not intend, it symbolizes just how far Brooks Brothers has fallen. It stands as an ironic symbol of a faded past, an emblem of a company that has almost completely betrayed its American roots.