Olympic Uniforms to be Made From Oregon Wool
(December 1, 2013) J eanne Carver had just completed chores at the Imperial Stock Ranch when the phone rang. It was a clear, beautiful July 2012 day in Oregon’s high desert. Carver sat on her porch with her phone.
The caller got to the point, firing questions at Carver about the sheep ranch and wool operation she runs with her husband, Dan Carver. The caller asked so many detailed questions about Imperial’s wool yarn that Carver figured she was talking with an independent yarn shop – the ranch sells its yarn to 300 shops across the country. But she finally asked the caller’s identity.
"I’m with product development with Ralph Lauren in New York."
"Are you kidding me?"
"Nope, I’m sitting in an office on Madison Avenue."
"That’s amazing. Can you hear my sheep?"
The product developer with the New York-based brand with nearly $7 billion in annual sales, speaking from one of the most populated places on earth to one of the least populated, said yes, he could hear the Imperial Stock Ranch sheep. That conversation led to meetings in Central Oregon and a partnership that culminated with Ralph Lauren’s announcement that every article of Ralph Lauren clothing for the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympic athletes in Sochi, Russia, including their opening and closing ceremony uniforms and their Olympic Village gear, has been made by domestic craftsman and manufacturers.
The apparel brand tapped more than 40 vendors, from ranchers in the rural West to yarn spinners in Pennsylvania to sewers in New York’s Garment District, for the outfits unveiled.
Jeanne Carver said her Ralph Lauren contacts did not tell her the intended use for her yarn until months after their initial meeting.
At the time Ralph Lauren came calling, neither Jeanne or her husband knew the company had taken some lumps for sourcing the U.S. Summer Olympic team’s 2012 opening and closing ceremonies outfits to manufacturers in China.
Trade unions and Congress jumped on, saying American athletes should wear American-made clothing.
Ralph Lauren has supplied U.S. Olympic clothing since 2008.
"We’re very busy that time of year on the ranch," Carver said of her lack of knowledge about 2012 controversy over Olympic duds.
The Carvers are the fourth owners of the 32,000-acre ranch founded in 1871, about 120 miles southeast of Portland. In 1988, Dan Carver purchased a portion of the ranch, which is basking in the glow of its Ralph Lauren association.
"They brought us into the fold and gave us all of their expertise," Carver said.
Reprinted from the Portland Oregonian