Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sperry Top-Sider + Band Of Outsiders | Made in...does it matter?

A tale I may have misheard from a dusty lecture hall many years ago features the words, ‘Made in Germany’.

We’re talking history here…but I’ll try and keep it short.

A couple of hundred years ago, German manufacturing was considered so poor, anyone importing German goods would have the mark removed. About a hundred years later, German manufacturing was considered so good, English manufacturers were adding ‘Made in Germany’ to their own goods.

That’s a nice tale. Interesting to some. Boring for others. It’s quite relevant though, with the continued drive for ‘Made in Britain’ to be stamped on clothes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m keen on British manufacture - keeping skills, employment, and money in our economy. Some folks can get a little militant about it, however.

Often, for reasons of skills, tradition, or value, the UK isn’t the best place to manufacturer clothes. And, the seeming desire to have the ‘Made in Britain’ associated with a brand can push companies to play a little loose with the term, rolling out lines only a couple of which are genuinely made locally.

No names to mention, I’m just saying.

This is a discussion that could go long into the night and well into the next month.

As well as the perceived economic benefits of ‘Made in Britain’, there’s an argument of transparency and responsibility in supply chains.

True, but raw ingredients are rarely brought into this. Where is the cotton from? Where is the leather from? Factors often overlooked in the great drive for that local manufacture stamp, yet factors which are just as important if we’re talking CSR.

Besides this, on the economic front, brands that operate from the UK, but don’t manufacture here, are still creating jobs and economic growth by employing people in design, PR, marketing, and sales - jobs don’t only exist on the factory floor.

Finally, there’s an issue of cost. As a consumer, I want the best quality of product and production for the best price - I don’t want to be subsidising an inefficient factory in Leicester, when one in Portugal can deliver clothes of the same standard.

Ultimately, a nation is an arbitrary distinction - although ours has a geographic boundary that makes it seem less so. In the US, for instance, ‘Made in the USA’ can mean goods have travelled thousands of miles - like buying a t-shirt from Moscow. God knows what distances are involved when ‘Made in Russia’ is analysed.

So, where’s this going?

Well, the Sperry Top-Sider x Band of Outsiders collaboration caught our eye for it’s strong design. A fun and different take on what is a very recognisable shoe.

However, what had us really talking was the ‘Made in China’ mark.

Bold? Brash? Foolish?

Perhaps all, some, or none of the above. The statement it makes is the interesting point. We sat up, we took noticed, we discussed. And that’s what bold design is all about, really.

At the end of it all, no one baulks at a car made in Germany or electronics made in Japan. Maybe one day ‘Made in China’ will emulate that tale of ‘Made in Germany’.

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