Sunday, January 11, 2004

Hot Corner: Nipping at the heels of the newsmakers

Made in China

A pair of faded Levi's represents Americana as much as baseball and apple pie. But 150-year-old Levi Strauss & Co. last week closed its last U.S. sewing plant in San Antonio and announced plans to move its sewing operations to China and other low-wage countries.

There is no loyalty or nostalgia in business anymore.

"We're still an American brand, but we're also a brand and a company whose products have been adopted by consumers around the world," said spokesman Jeff Beckman. "We have to operate as a global company."

Levi Strauss has lost money since 1996 amid increased competition. The jeans and other apparel manufactured by the company will still be Levi's, of course, and most Americans have long since let go of the "made in the U.S.A." expectation when it comes to apparel. But knowing a brand that shouts, no screams, "America" (see Bruce Springsteen's 1990 Born in the USA album cover) will be made in China just doesn't seem right.

Taking the plunge

Now that Madonna has announced her full-throated support for Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark, can her soul-kiss-mate Britney Spears be far behind in the celebrity endorsement biz?

Well, maybe it'll take her a while to evaluate her political options. After all, Britney's been awfully busy lately, what with that whirlwind marriage/sobering-up/anullment with a hometown friend. Then again, maybe an endorsement, Britney-style, means you just marry a candidate for a weekend or so. We hear Dennis Kucinich is looking, and he'll have lots of free time after Iowa.

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