By  on September 26, 2007

A group of young adults chosen by trend forecaster Zandl Group to weigh in weekly on developments stood apart from groundswell in recent weeks in the desire to buy American. Slightly fewer than four in 10 of the young adults said they were "much more interested in buying Made in USA products" since the scare about products made in China.

Apparel was a notable exception to the group's predominant disinterest in purchasing things made here. "I prefer to support local companies," said one of the mostly twentysomethings polled, related Zandl Group president Irma Zandl. "American Apparel is a good example of a Los Angeles company that doesn't use sweatshop labor," the person polled added.

This take on the value of buying American, following numerous problems with China-sourced goods came via 100 of the 500 hand-picked young adults Zandl Group considers thought leaders. They responded in the first two hours after they'd been contacted.

While an American Apparel Inc. spokeswoman said the brand's message "has always been first and foremost about the product — solid casual basics," she added, "the public has responded to our ability to buck the offshore trend and make clothes here with sweatshop-free labor."

However, Americana ad symbols didn't necessarily resonate in campaigns for things such as beer and cars — categories that have high-profile, Americana-themed campaigns in swing, including those of Budweiser and Chevrolet.

"If that's it, it's a terrible marketing ploy," Zandl said of flag-waving campaigns whose products are not fundamentally tied to such markers. Here, Zandl elaborates on what her designated tastemakers had to say.

WWD: How is it that fewer than half of the thought leaders polled are more inclined to buy goods made in the U.S., in the wake of highly publicized problems with products made in China?

Irma Zandl: They see the issue as being less about buying American than avoiding products made in China. They could even see switching to more European products. It's not a China versus U.S. situation. It's much broader than that.

WWD: Why was apparel cited as an exception?

I.Z.: I don't know why. Clothes, jeans, T-shirts were mentioned as things that would benefit people as buying on a made-in-America basis. New Balance was mentioned and [the chain] American Apparel was mentioned in reference to things made without sweatshop labor.WWD: Were you surprised?

I.Z.: I was surprised at the high number who said apparel made in America was something to buy. I don't feel it's a conversation I've been hearing. People don't say, "I don't want to buy Prada because it's made somewhere." A certain level of craftsmanship was something they were looking for. People seem to be more willing to pay more for aspirational items like designer jeans or shoes, made with care by a craftsman here in the U.S.

WWD: Your thought leaders think America's future lies in creativity and innovation, rather than in manufacturing. Is there a contradiction between this and the group's value of craftsmanship?

I.Z.: No. Craftsmanship is very creative. That's the difference between craft [microbrews] and the products of a big brewery.

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