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West Elm receives backlash from ‘Made in Brooklyn’ line

Posted at 6:52 PM, Jan 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-14 18:53:20-05

BROOKLYN (PIX11) -- Forget Coca-Cola or Apple, right now Brooklyn is one of the biggest brands in the world -- the name is on everything including clothing and beer.

So it's no wonder that West Elm's "Made In Brooklyn" line sold-out. The problem is the "Made in Brooklyn" line, wasn't actually made in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Paper discovered the manufacturing mishap and noticed the t-shirts, bags, and beer growlers were actually made in other states, and in some cases, even China.

"People don't really pay attention," said Delen Parsley of Ocean Hill.  "You know, they just read what's on the shirt and they take it for face value.  But if it ain't real and it ain't made in Brooklyn, I don't think they should do that.  I think there should be a law against that."

While there is a law under the Federal Trade Commission that prevents companies from saying a product is made in the U.S. if it's not actually made here in the country, the law on saying a product is "made in Brooklyn" when it's actually made elsewhere is gray.

But either way, people who live in Brooklyn say it's unclear and seems fake in a borough that prides itself on being real.

"Doing fashion myself, my t-shirts say 'Made in Brooklyn'," said Jason Robertson, a clothing designer from Prospect Heights. "I'm from Brooklyn, currently we do everything in house, in Brooklyn.  So, it's a little discouraging, a little discouraging to see."

"It’s incredibly important to us to be transparent with our customers about where all our products are made," said West Elm's VP of Brand Marketing Abigal Jacobs. "The hangtags on these products and the information provided on our website specified their country of origin. The tagline – Made in Brooklyn - was meant to be a nod to the potential contents: the beer in the growler, the person wearing the shirt. As a company that was born and is based in Brooklyn and takes great pride in our Brooklyn heritage, we understand how this could have been confusing to some customers. These products are currently sold out, and we don’t intend to carry them again."

The customer confusion is just one reason the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce came up with the "Brooklyn Made" stamp of approval last year.

For a small fee, businesses that make their products in Brooklyn can put the icon on their merchandise, so customers know they're getting something made in the borough.

While Brooklyn Chamber President Carlo Scissura says he shops at West Elm and wants continued success for the Brooklyn company, he says "Made in Brooklyn" can only mean one thing.

"For the economy, for job growth, for people making a living wage and having health benefits and everything, if you are saying "Made in Brooklyn", you better be made in Brooklyn," said Scissura.