We understand that purchasing products made in China may be a controversial subject for some of our customers. In short, we source products from China because we have found specific mills that make high-quality products at a very good value and under good working conditions. We also believe that engaging with Chinese companies and people will help transform China into a good world citizen.
Here are explanations to questions you may have, and why Cuddledown feels confident about the products that we import from China.
Why do we source many of our products from China?
We specify in our vision statement that we're focused on exclusive, environmentally responsible products, made of the finest quality materials, manufactured to the highest quality standards, and backed by expert service. To accomplish this, we search the world for great raw materials, fabrics, and finished products, selecting those that we think will both fit with our brand and be a value to our customers.
In the past few decades, we have seen a steep decline in American and European manufacturing, and a rise in Asian manufacturing. In our travels, we have found very high-quality fabrics being manufactured in China, and the lower cost of these products make them an excellent value for American consumers. Chinese labor costs are no longer the lowest in the world, so China has had to improve quality to attract American companies looking for better goods. However, not all Chinese mills are equal: we buy from the more expensive mills in China because we demand the highest quality.
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Can’t we get similar fabrics that are made in the United States?
Textile manufacturing in America has declined so much that we can no longer find viable sources for our bedding products that are made in the USA. Cuddledown of course makes all of our down and synthetic filled comforters, pillows, and featherbeds here in Maine, and we buy other bedding products that are made in the USA, but most of the fabric is imported.
The US has never made high quality downproof fabric. 25 years ago all of the down comforters sold in the US had fabric made in Europe. Today, only a few very special downproof fabrics come from Europe, like our German Batiste, but most others come from Asia.
We do not know of any mills in the United States that are weaving and finishing the high-quality fabrics that we use for sheets and comforter ensembles. Weaving, dyeing, finishing, cutting, and sewing are all labor intensive processes – over the last few decades we have seen imports come into the US at lower prices, and consumers have become accustomed to paying lower prices for home textiles. The demand was for less expensive products, so the US mills gradually shifted their production offshore, or they went out of business; and today nothing is left.
We have many customers telling us that people do not want to buy Chinese products, but when we have offered similar products made in Europe our customers have chosen the lower priced products from China. We will continue to offer products from a variety of countries, but we're not seeing a movement toward non-Chinese merchandise.
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What are the working conditions like in the mills that make our products?
We have traveled to most of the mills around the world that make products for us. They are remarkably similar in working conditions. The mills in Europe are usually old buildings that are upgraded inside, while the mills in China, where we manufacture, are all newer construction. Chinese workers wear western clothing and their workrooms are clean and well organized. The biggest difference is that most Chinese mills have some dormitory housing on the grounds where workers from rural China live as they get established in the industrialized eastern cities. We are making very high-quality products, so our mills cannot use untrained workers in sweatshop conditions because the result would be unacceptable quality that would not pass our inspections or satisfy our customers.
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Why don’t we say in our catalog and web copy that a product is made in China?
The industry norm is to not mention “Made in China” in advertising, instead using the word “Imported.” We follow this standard practice, but we are careful to avoid phrases like “French inspired” that may mislead our customers into believing that the product is manufactured in Europe.
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Why do we reward the Chinese by doing business with them?
We are not doing business with the Chinese government; we are doing business with private companies that are owned by Chinese individuals. We do business with companies that we respect and that produce quality products. These companies are environmentally aware and meet Oeko-Tex® certification standards. They are trustworthy and can stand behind the promises they make. Our business is based on mutual benefit and has little or nothing to do with the government of China.
China is a big country with a fast growing economy. Our experience with Chinese people indicates that they are very proud of their country – we also saw this during the Beijing Olympics. China wants to take their place on the world stage; they feel that they deserve it. If we develop a robust exchange of products and services with China, we will stand a better chance of being seen as their friend, we will increase communication with them, and we learn from each other.
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Wouldn’t it be better for the US – and for the Chinese workers – to boycott Chinese products?
The only way that the US is going to help China transform into a good world citizen is to engage with them. Our trade with them makes us interdependent, and that’s a good thing. China’s investment in the United States makes it invested in our success and that’s a good thing for both sides. The embargo of Cuba has failed to change the Cuban government. The isolation of North Korea has not helped transform their government into one of peace and friendship. Refusing to talk to Iran hasn’t helped Iran join the community of nations. History has shown that isolation doesn’t cause countries to reform themselves. If we want to change China into a country that treats its people and environment with respect, we need to be engaged with Chinese citizens in a broad-based way.
If we boycott all Chinese products, regardless of how the company is run or the quality of their merchandise, we hurt Chinese workers. The mills whose products are boycotted will layoff their workers, and those individuals and their families will see their lives change for the worse. In many cases, the factory managers and owners will not be hurt. Cuddledown believes that the best path is to find companies that are willing and able to make high-quality products using fair and safe working conditions, and then use a robust level of communication to manage a mutually beneficial relationship. This helps people, encourages education, improves living conditions, and makes the world a better place.
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Where are other companies getting their lower-priced textiles? Can’t we switch our sourcing to countries other than China?
The companies that are getting textiles from countries other than China are going to Vietnam, Pakistan, India, and others – the labor costs are lower, and there are often lower controls on working conditions and pollution. In general, we have seen quality from these other countries to be inferior to China – but things change, and we are constantly looking at new sources all over the world. Finding a company that can meet our requirements for quality is just the first step in our product development process: There are many other factors that need to be considered. It is always a learning process, and right now we have less experience with the working conditions and environmental controls of the other developing nations.
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What’s the future for Cuddledown products sourced from China?
We regularly meet with our Chinese suppliers, visit their offices and factories, and exchange a constant stream of emails. We have seen their quality improve, their working conditions improve, and even seen positive personal growth in their people. Multiply our experience times tens of thousands of similar relationships from other US companies, and you get a transforming China. Perhaps it is now time for all of us in the United States to change our mind about China. Perhaps we need to see China for what it is, rather than what we fear.
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How can I be sure that the Cuddledown products made in China will not be harmful to me?
We are extremely careful in choosing our partners in China, and all must conform to Cuddledown’s strict quality assurance standards. All conventional cotton fabrics and products we purchase from China are either Oeko-Tex Certified or produced under the same strict environmental standards required in Europe.
The Oeko-Tex standard 100 prohibits or limits the use of known harmful substances. Products that have been tested to the defined criteria of Oeko-Tex 100 and subsequently certified provide a guarantee that they will not pose any known risk to human health.
–International Oeko-Tex Institutes
All of our organic cotton fabrics and products are GOTS certified. This certification standard guarantees that the fibers used in these textiles are grown organically, manufactured without harmful chemicals, and produced in a fair working environment. This extensive standard is only placed on truly organic products, tested by the same certification that is used all over the world. These are Cuddledown’s assurances to you that our made in China products will be safe for use by your and your family.
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