Designer of Olympic outfits shrugs off made-in-China flap
May 03, 2008 04:30 AM
You could say he’s in stitches.
With the federal government and opposition parties angry over news that Canada’s Olympic uniforms are being made in China, Tu Ly, one of the designers who created them, thinks it’s “quite funny” that MPs have turned it into a political issue.
“I would like to challenge these politicians to give up their cell phones made in China or their TVs, then maybe they’d really be on an even plane,” said Ly, who had just spent three days in Alberta meeting with members of Canada’s Olympic team.
Tu Ly, left, a designer of Canada’s Olympic outfits, poses with Canadian Olympians ??” rower Rachelle de Jong and swimmer Colin Russell ??” at the unveiling of the uniforms in Toronto this week.
By the time Ly landed in Toronto last night, he had already heard that MPs had seized on the news the team’s clothing for the Beijing games – which he and fellow Hudson’s Bay Company designer Vivienne Lu created – are being produced in Chinese factories.
“This is a no-brainer,” New Democrat MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) said earlier yesterday.
“This is our Olympic team. We should be ensuring that all of our Olympic athletes are proudly wearing Canadian-made textiles and all of their uniforms should be made in Canada.”
Liberal Denis Coderre said it’s particularly unfortunate the “unacceptable” snub to Canada’s homegrown clothing-makers should occur at a time when the industry is struggling.
Last night, a spokesperson for Helena Guergis, secretary of state for amateur sport, said that the government is equally annoyed with the decision to use foreign-made clothing, but is powerless to change it.
“We do not agree with the decision to produce Olympic clothing offshore and would have preferred that the clothing was made in Canada,” said Blair MacLean, Guergis’ communications director, noting “the Canadian Olympic Committee is independent, operating at arm’s length from government.”
Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said the government had not raised with them the issue of where the clothing is made.
HBC spokesperson Hillary Marshall said Asia, and particularly China, is the only readily-available source for the specialty fabrics featured in the eco-friendly designs. Meant to help athletes cope with Beijing’s heat and humidity, the fabrics include bamboo, cocona and organic cotton.
For the last summer Olympics, Roots Canada made the athletes’ uniforms at home.
The company outfitted Canada’s Olympic teams between 1998 and 2004.
“We made almost all the apparel for the Canadian team right here in Canada,” Robert Sarner, Roots’ director of communications, told the Star last night.
Ironically, uniforms for the United States Olympic teams, which Roots supplied from 2002-2006, were also made in Canada, said Sarner.
Ly said the made-in-China flap is unfairly distracting attention from the athletes and HBC’s groundbreaking financial support for Canada’s Olympic team. It has committed to raise $20 million by 2012.
Meanwhile, the company also has a code of vendor conduct to ensure its suppliers operate under fair working law and respect the environment, he said.
“I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and have never been quite as impressed as I am with how HBC is with their ethical program,” Ly said last night.
With files from The Canadian Press
Tu Ly – Profiles – Project Runway Canada – Slice
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A poster boy for the new global voyager, the Saigon-born, Toronto-based Tu Ly is trans-cultural and international. At the 2006 XX Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, where he served as HBC’s designer for Team Canada, he scored gold with his graphic red and white uniforms. Team Canada was subsequently awarded the title of “Best Dressed” in the Olympic Village in a vote by other international Olympians. Currently, Tu is hard at work creating the collection for Beijing 2008 Summer Games.
In April 2006, Tu inked a deal with Saks Fifth Avenue. As Creative Director of two key private label collections, Tu creates wearable fashion for 40 Saks locations. He also serves as creative director on all advertising campaigns for Ports 1961; celebrity-favorite fashion brand. Tu has engaged the talents of supermodels Claudia Schiffer and Kate Moss for their campaigns.
As Roots Canada’s Design Director in 2000, Tu developed The Roots Passport Collection. In 1999 he conceived the SAMPLE concept, a luxurious knitwear collection for all seasons with boutiques located in New York and Los Angeles. SAMPLE is a modern fashion philosophy that has found favour with Oprah Winfrey, Heather Mills McCartney and Jessica Alba.