Weekly Roundup: This Is (Probably Not Made Anywhere Near) BRAZIL! Edition

There’s a new language appearing all over product marketing nowadays and I’ve dubbed it Sustainish. Here’s an example:

We are constantly trying to do things better. When it comes to our leather production, we’ve mindfully approached the process to make our leather sneakers in the most sustainable way possible. Our supplier operates under strict local and international environmental standards (ISO 14001). Their sustainability action demands that 100% of the water that is used in the leather process is reused and treated (with zero chemical waste output). They use solar panels as their primary source of energy. Plus, they also produce electricity from hydro-generated and thermal energy (both renewable sources).

Ah, shades of S’Well, the magic sustainable bottle-maker whose products are also made with solar power and recycled water and zero waste in A MYSTERIOUS PLACE THAT NEVER SEEMS TO APPEAR ANYWHERE NEAR THE MARKETING MATERIALS. And so it is with Cariuma, a new sneaker brand “from Brazil” that describes its procurement processes in hyperactive detail right down to a picture of the device used to get rubber out of a tree but which suffers from a sudden and convenient case of amnesia when it’s time to discuss where their “supplier” is.

Anybody want to guess at the provenance of these Brazilian sneakers?

Born in Brazil (but citizens of the world), the founders of CARIUMA are former shoe execs who left their corporate jobs to pursue a more inspired path. Together, they embarked on a world tour to answer the question, “what do we do next?” With a shared passion for sneakers, craftsmanship and the warm, inviting culture that raised them, they decided to build a different kind of company. A company whose practices are better for the people and for the planet. Our small, but mighty team is spread throughout Los Angeles, Singapore, China & Rio.

Let me fire up the old Sustainish-to-English translator… chug, whirrrrr, pop BOOM hummmm…. and feed that paragraph in… there’s a tape coming out the other side…

So you had a couple of people making a half-million bucks a year off the insane shoe-business margins that let Nike sell a $25 shoe for $185 but half-a-million bucks a year doesn’t get you a condo in Manhattan or a NetJets card so they decided to grab all the money. Because they are “citizens of the world” their Monkeysphere doesn’t include any normal human beings of any sort so they have no qualms at all about ethics-washing products from yet another Chinese sweatshop.

I know I’m preaching to the converted here, but the Cariumas of the world are designed to generate a few high-net-worth people at the expense of, say, five hundred American jobs. This is a variant of the process by which all the locally-owned IGA grocers in Middle America were put out of business and replaced with Dollar Generals. The IGA created one upper-middle-class person (the grocer) and several middle-middle-class people (the butcher, the baker, the managers). Those people lived in the community and spent money in the community. Dollar General, by contrast, employs one manager, who makes about sixty grand a year, and pays everybody else eight bucks an hour. The selection is worse than it was in the IGA, the food is lower-quality, but the prices are the same. Where does the extra revenue go? Why, it goes to the investor class. This is part of the “financialization of America” and it is why this country is turning into Brazil…

…right down to the fact that it’s apparently too expensive, and difficult, to make sneakers in either the United States or Brazil. Is labor cheaper in China than it is in Brazil?

It is not. However, it would be no end of trouble to actually build a sneaker factory in Brazil. There would be bribes and construction delays and labor trouble and all sorts of people trying to wet their proverbial beaks. It’s far easier to call China and sign a contract. Which is what the folks from Cariuma did. They followed the blueprint of a modern company:

(People with good resumes) + (venture capital looking for a 100-bagger) + (cheap design from recent graduates of West Coast schools) + (mysterious overseas factories with zero oversight) = A NEW BRAND!

You don’t actually create any value, employ any of your fellow countrymen, or make anything that has any real reason to exist. It’s all churning, all a cheap marketing trick to sell disposable garbage. The final insult is that the Cariuma products are priced about level with Allen-Edmonds dress shoes during any one of the Wisconsin firm’s twelve-times-yearly sales. It’s no cheaper to buy a “Brazilian” sneaker from China than it is to buy an American-made brogue or blucher. So where does the extra profit go? To the founders, who will buy expensive homes and attend expensive dinner parties and talk… in Sustainish, obviously. “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

* * *

For Hagerty this week, I wrote about small diesels and big mistakes.

48 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: This Is (Probably Not Made Anywhere Near) BRAZIL! Edition”

  1. Tom KlockauTom Klockau

    “Morrie’s wigs are tested against hurricane winds!” I’m not 100% why, but this was the very first thing that popped into my head upon reading this.

    Reply
  2. AvatarDirty Dingus McGee

    Are the sneakers “free range”? ‘Cause if they ain’t, I ain’t buying them. I have standards you know. (sarcasm off)

    It’s hard to find domestic manufactured anything at any of the “big box” stores. Shoes, clothes, tools, even appliances all seem to be made somewhere else. Our company budgets $10,000 per year for tools; worn out electric tools (including cordless), and hand tools due to breakage, lost or stolen, occasionally something that I/we never realized we needed. Any of the big box stores give you a choice of several different brands, none manufactured in the US. Even precision tools are going that way. We recently added a new theodolite ( precision transit) .Ordered a Lecia, $1800. When I picked it up there is a small sticker on the bottom. Yup, made in China. I have since checked and that manufacturer makes them for several companies, just slaps on their name.

    Friggin sad.

    Reply
    • Avatarjcain

      Extends to their camera lines too: As far as I know the lower end (i.e., less than ~$5K for body/lens) Leica cameras are largely based on Panasonic Lumix models and are not made by Leica themselves. Of course, if you pay up you can get an “official” Leica design. I really wanted a Leica Q (which is made in Germany) but could not justify the $4,500 price tag. Been happy with the $1,100 Fuji X100F I got instead, and it’s made in Japan to boot.

      Reply
      • AvatarDaniel J

        I sport an Olympus Body with a Panasonic Leica branded lens. I think most the parts are Chinese but assembled in Japan. China can produce good quality optics. Multi thousand dollar telescopes designed here and in Japan use Chinese sourced glass.

        Reply
  3. AvatarJohn C.

    It is a good thing when you point out a product is not what it implies. I hope your website is not attacked by bots the way it was when you pointed out the similar story of the lady with her Chinese stainless steel water bottles.

    Reply
  4. AvatarJames

    It’s summer–you wear some overpriced sneakers, all sneakers are overpriced, an IT administrator is going to criticize your sense of fashion. Allen Edmonds will sell you overpriced sneakers (all sneakers are overpriced) but they sure don’t make them in the U.S.A. Just wear Havaianas or Diego’s!

    Reply
  5. AvatarShortest Circuit

    If one wonders what happens when industry leaves an area, just look at Australia. First prices start to creep up (or quality of goods down) – depending on the population. Then stuff you took for granted vanishes. Fancy taking up welding now that nobody seems to be doing it? Try to buy a bottle of Argon. Where I live you can get a big cylinder for well under $100 while a buddy currently living in Brisbane is cursing me out as he has to drive and drive and pay almost 200$ for the same exact gas.

    ps. I wanted to make a joke that aliexpress.mx is down. Then I checked.

    Reply
  6. AvatarCJinSD

    The various Dollar chains are why the people who buy their dinners from Amazon think Wal-mart is bad for local economies. Warren Buffet has been heavily invested in Dollar stores, and that’s why he uses his media ties to ‘educate’ the sheep to protest working class people having access to the volume pricing of Wal-mart that they take for granted from Bezos and Costco. Meanwhile, the USPS went from threatening to discontinue Saturday delivery to delivering Bezos’ retail-killing trinkets on national holidays for a charge that Amazon Prime’s free shipping covers thus making Bezos wealthy enough to be more important to Congress than three hundred million other American citizens. And it all happened during one fascist administration.

    Reply
  7. Avatarhank chinaski

    PWOT and the very early Cracked published some amusing content. The referenced ‘Monkeysphere’ article : https://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html
    They’ve long since gone full SJW retard, of course, even wiping much of their own early content and unpersoning the authors.

    Related, recent article I’m too lazy to link to quoting 90% of plastic waste in the oceans originating in rivers draining Asia and Africa, and a full 50% from the Yangtze and Ganges alone, IIRC.

    I guess Bark’s off Hyundai’s Xmas card list for good.

    Reply
  8. AvatarIdaneck

    Summer time and not in the office:
    Colorado made Chacos (that have been “recrafted” a few times). Use them on the trails, river, boat, bike, etc…

    But Chaco was recently bought out by Wolverine and except for the custom stuff, no longer made in the US.

    Reply
  9. AvatarMarkXJR

    Economy is booming, unemployment is at record lows, wages are on the rise and Baruths are still not happy

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I’m not going to be happy until the average American earns a living wage. Guess that makes me a Nazi or something. I also want to see the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States. Our current economic model is based on selling real estate to the Chinese and thats not what you would call a formula for national greatness.

      Reply
      • AvatarMarkXJR

        What would you consider the minimum living wage to be in the current economic environment? And do you think the overall quality of life for an average American would improve, if prices of all basic goods and services are offset for the labor costs at that wage level? Not trying to argue, just curious to hear your opinion.

        Reply
        • AvatarDon Curton

          I think Jack’s concept is that we don’t just raise the cost of minimum wage to some arbitrary figure. Like you implied, that will just be off-set in the rise of prices for all basic goods and services. Jack’s continued drum beat of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the USA implies that a living wage is earned by actually working at a job, in an industry, where that work is truly valued at (or above) that same arbitrary figure. We can’t just AOC our way to a living wage by raising the salary of a burger flipper. You have to be working at a higher valued level.

          The actual value is heavily dependent on location. Here in South Texas, $15 per hour can get you an ok apartment, older used car, and some extra spending cash for the single person. For the family, you’d need two incomes at that level to support kids and all that. I have no idea of the east/west coast communities.

          Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          My response to this is long enough that I am going to do it as a separate post, if you dont mind.

          Reply
        • AvatarCJinSD

          This living wage BS will accomplish nothing other than bankrupting retirees who actually saved for their retirements. Social security was how we originally set ourselves on the path to hell, so I don’t see how wiping out the only people who aren’t trying to affix their lips to the public teat will amount to good public policy.

          Reply
      • Avatareverybodyhatesscott

        Portillos (burger joint) around here pays $14 bucks an hour (28k a year) starting. My gf works in recruiting and warehouses are complaining because they have to raise wages. Her biggest problem has been drug tests and now that weed is legal in IL it’s not an immediate disqualifier. These all marketing/dubious quality companies who can’t be bother to try and make a shoe in the USA irk me too but the low unemployment rate is helping wages. What do you consider a living wage?

        I’m with you on bringing back manufacturing. How hard would it be to put a factory in flyover country and employ actual Americans. Iphones sell for 1k a pop, we really can’t make them here? “Designed in California, made in Oklahoma”

        Reply
        • Avatardejal

          How hard? The stockholders would go nuts if it cost another dime to make Apple stuff without an increase in retail to cover the cost.

          Tim Cook would be shown the door.

          Reply
      • AvatarI COME IN PEACE

        The SF bay area is ground zero for this kind of crap. In my well-to-do corner of silicon valley, there are lots and lots of seemingly abandoned looking, multi-million dollar homes that sit empty – purchased by foreign nationals (or a group of them) who are just parking their money in the real estate. The most greedy, status, and money driven people I’ve ever encountered.

        The housing market here needs a major correction, it probably won’t happen in my lifetime. We’re DINKs and the kind of property we’d like to buy and grow our family in is out of our reach, and we aren’t exactly just scraping by. I can’t wait to move away from here.

        Reply
        • Avatarhank chinaski

          See also NYC, Seattle, Vancouver, etc. VD linked to this related piece at (choke) The Atlantic: https://amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/591532/ Cliff notes: ‘Places where real estate is cheap don’t have many good jobs. Places with lots of jobs, primarily coastal cities, have seen their real-estate markets go absolutely haywire.’
          There will never be a correction. Every local municipality’s finances are tied into infinitely rising real estate prices and heaven and earth will be moved to maintain that.

          Reply
  10. Avatarbluebarchetta

    These Cariuma shoes look almost exactly like Shaun White skate shoes. You probably don’t remember, but about ten years ago, Shaun White had his brother Jesse design some skate shoes, had them made in China, and they sold for $30/pair at Target. No uppity designer bullshit, no pretension, just “here’s some cool shoes from a cool guy for $30.” Here’s what they looked like:
    https://coolhunting.com/style/shaun-white-sho/

    I bought a pair. Nobody else did. Guess Shaun should have asked $100/pair and sold them exclusively at PacSun or something. “The laces are woven from the remnants of abandoned sea turtle nests!”

    Reply
  11. Avatarrambo furum

    Anyone that self-identifies as a “citizen of the world” is not to be trusted. Other terms meaning the same thing are globalist, rootless cosmopolitan, and man without a country. Be loyal to your nation or find another one.

    Reply
    • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

      +1. A “citizen of the world” would throw his children under the bus if it brought more shareholder value.

      A court ordered mediator once asked a friend in the midst of a problem with her employer “What do you want out of this?” My friend said “I want to see them swinging from lamp posts.”

      Reply
  12. Avatardumas

    “This is a variant of the process by which all the locally-owned IGA grocers in Middle America were put out of business and replaced with Dollar Generals. ”

    It’s also the same reason we have to chuck out all the Romaine lettuce in the US and Canada. One Sustainish farm in Cali (with all the appropriate buzzwords on their website) had a problem, but we couldn’t be sure it was only that one farm, and therefore all the farms in the area were a concern- unfortunately, that’s where all the Romaine was coming from.

    Ten years ago, something similar happened up in Canada, where a major deli meat recall showed us all that pretty much every single brand of meat in Canada was owned by the same over-arching concern, and was therefore at risk.

    Reply
  13. Avatarcognoscenti

    Consider the request to hear more about this unicorn five-speed Milan seconded! Did you decide to stop beating on your Accord, Jack?

    Reply
  14. AvatarJMcG

    Jack,
    These columns of yours which deal with the ongoing self destruction of the United States are required reading for my three oldest children. Thank you for carrying this torch. By the way, I’ve just discovered that Wigwam socks are US made. Now I can have American socks inside my American boots.

    Reply
  15. AvatarCrancast

    So, was there a falling out of the Baruth Bros? Mark with content over at TTAC and no sign of him here. Can’t begrudge Mark for getting paid, but my goodness TTAC blows – hate seeing him over there.

    Jack – well done on the Hagerty transformation thus far. Curious how the traffic is looking. You finally pried comments out of people. And thanks for the Dearborn Denim link a few months back, got a pair and they have been fantastic.

    Reply
    • AvatarWill

      I don’t think he posted here often and their blog is more of personal items than car related work. Bark might just be more focused on that, could be wrong though.

      Who still reads TTAC? I’m waiting on one of Farago’s hot takes on Hagerty. Tesla Death Watch maybe?

      Reply
  16. AvatarTyler

    What does it cost to live here. Where is here. In Toledo there are three or four school districts to which any rational parent would entrust his child if he could exercise choice in the matter. They are also the only communities where homes are kept up and civic services function. And good luck to you buying in for less than 250k. That’s dual income white collar money even here. You can live on far less but if you want to raise a family you’d better not.

    Reply
  17. AvatarCliffG

    I’ve said it before, but it never gets old: Phil Knight’s genius was not the famous iron, waffle maker plastic combo coming up with a new running shoe. It was that 15 year old Indonesian girls making 25 cents an hour could put together shoes just as well as 40 year Massachusetts males making $5.50 an hour ( a good wage in 1974). Beggar your neighbor works great until they are all beggars. Then the blades of the scythes get sharpened.

    Reply
    • AvatarWill

      That’s hardly his genius, it only happened because we let them get away with it and Unions are just monopolies in disguise and no better than the business monopolies that we have today. Sadly, as much as the democratic party thinks that they are the voice of the worker, that died when B. Obama announced the TPP agreement from Nike HQ, a global company. That’s sadly where we’re at today, no party gives a shit because they can enrich themselves while in office and good luck getting rid of the eternal pension/insider trading and other various crap they get for free.

      Reply
  18. Avatarviper32cm

    I know I’m preaching to the converted here, but the Cariumas of the world are designed to generate a few high-net-worth people at the expense of, say, five hundred American jobs. This is a variant of the process by which all the locally-owned IGA grocers in Middle America were put out of business and replaced with Dollar Generals. The IGA created one upper-middle-class person (the grocer) and several middle-middle-class people (the butcher, the baker, the managers). Those people lived in the community and spent money in the community. Dollar General, by contrast, employs one manager, who makes about sixty grand a year, and pays everybody else eight bucks an hour. The selection is worse than it was in the IGA, the food is lower-quality, but the prices are the same. Where does the extra revenue go? Why, it goes to the investor class. This is part of the “financialization of America” and it is why this country is turning into Brazil…

    Not sure how popular country is with the readers and authors of this blog, but that paragraph instantly reminded me of this song:

    Reply
    • AvatarJMcG

      A friend was backstage in Ireland when Mr. Jackson played in Dublin. None of the backstage crew were allowed to make direct eye contact with the great man.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        Not to defend or attack Jackson, but that rule is common in show business. If you don’t have it, then the actor/musician/whatever winds up being stared at by EVERYONE backstage for the whole time. You have to be a sociopath for that not to bother you just a little bit.

        Reply
  19. AvatarAoLetsGo

    Waxing poetically about the crappy IGA, what a sad state of affairs.
    Was it not the IGA that put the butcher, baker and dry goods grocer out of business?
    It’s a race to the bottom for the unskilled ones.
    So if you have children beg, borrow or steal to put them in a good school district and that is only half the battle.
    You the parent have to supplement big time, although not all of us can do $5,000 guitar camps.

    Reply
    • AvatarDirty Dingus McGee

      In some areas, the butcher and baker, not so much the dry grocer tho, are making a bit of a comeback. Out here in the backwater that I live, there are 2 butcher shops and 3 bakery’s that I’m aware of within a 15 minute drive (same as going to the regular grocery store).

      The one place I miss is the old time hardware store. They always looked like a high wind had come thru, stuff piled everywhere, but damn if the proprietor didn’t know exactly where what you wanted was,

      Reply

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