Jeanne 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.
The caller got to the point, firing questions at Carver about the sheep ranch and the wool operation she runs with her husband, Dan. 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.
That conversation led to a partnership that culminated Tuesday 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, had 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 Tuesday.
Jeanne Carver said her Ralph Lauren contacts did not tell her the intended use for her yarn until months after their initial meeting. By December of last year, Carver knew all about Ralph Lauren's interest in sourcing material and workmanship in the United States for Team USA.
The Carvers are the fourth owners of the 32,000-acre ranch founded in 1871, about 120 miles southeast of Portland. In the late 1990s, with the wool commodity business model broken in the United States, Jeanne Carver began marketing Imperial Yarn - the ranch's own dyed and spool-spun wool from its own sheep.
According to a video posted by Ralph Lauren at www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7BDDj_NBEQ&sns=em, for the opening ceremony sweater alone, 6,250 pounds of wool were ordered and 5,625,000 yards of yarn were spun and dyed.
The full article is available at www.oregonlive.com/playbooks-profits/index.ssf/2013/10/ralph_lauren_surprises_eastern.html.
Reprinted in part from the Oregonian