On May 6, Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to promote their upcoming movie, Larry Crowne. During the show’s second half, Ms. Roberts and Mr. Hanks gave away their “favorite things.”
Oprah’s “elves” (as Hanks put it) arrived with Julia’s favorite things first, wrapped in big boxes with pretty bows on top. When the audience whooped and cheered and went a little nuts, Ms. Roberts tried to calm them down, saying there would be no car, no date with Tom Hanks, nothing that exciting. “There might be Chapstick under one of these,” she said. Ironically, Julia, had Chapstick been given to every audience member it would have helped our economy. Chapstick is still Made in the U.S.A.
Let’s check out Julia’s choices. Randy at Buy American Challenge figures if the average American household reduced its foreign-made purchases by 25 percent we could erase our nation’s half-trillion dollar trade deficit and brighten our economic future. I like to think of it as our 25 percent solution. If switching to 100 percent U.S.A.-made sounds overwhelming, just be sure 25 percent of your purchases are made here. Were 25 percent of Julia’s favorite things made in the U.S.A? Let’s see:
Theodora and Callum scarves. The company’s website says: “Theodora & Callum is an accessories-based line featuring scarves and jewelry inspired by travels to Morocco, Bali, Turkey, India and the Mediterranean.” The scarves Julia likes–large enough to wear as a skirt and such–run about $175.
A company rep returned my call to confirm that Theodora and Callum scarves are made in China. “I hate to say that,” she said. She wished they could make the products here, but when pushed on that idea she said there was “no way” they could do so. And yes, since the Oprah plug, sales have gone through the roof. “We’ve been very fortunate.”
Melinda Maria bangles: Each gold bangle costs approximately $135 to $185. The idea is to wear three or so stacked alongside each other. I called a few retailers that used to carry Melinda Maria products. All said they thought the product was made in Los Angeles.
The Melinda Maria website currently features a quote from Julia Roberts: Melinda’s jewelry is amazing for the simple reason that it is made out of a joy for life. She manages to put her loving energy into each piece she makes.
I pictured Melinda in an art studio in Los Angeles, designing and hammering out each piece. Such a talented artist! But when I emailed Melinda Maria’s V.P. of Sales and Marketing to inquire about the jewelry’s country of origin, her email reply decimated my artist-in-residence notions: We have a lot of the finishing done in the USA, but have our stone setting and other design features done outside of the US. I asked what finishing meant. No reply. Jury’s out on Melinda Maria. I’ll be generous and say the bangles are 50 percent made in U.S.A.
Lancôme makeup: As global ambassadress for Lancôme (with whom she reportedly inked a $20 million deal), Julia handed out two of the French company’s products:
Lancôme’s Définicils Precious Cells Mascara ($29 at neimanmarcus.com): Made in France
Lancôme’s Juicy Tubes Lip Gloss Set ($29.50 at nordstrom.com): Made in France.
Coach Julia Nylon Cosmetic Case: Nordstrom.com says “Imported” ($58). Translation: Made in China. Perhaps ’twas the name that attracted Ms. Roberts…?
Serge Normant Meta Revive Dry Shampoo: Drum roll, please. According to a salesperson at Barney’s New York, this product ($28) is made in the U.S.A. Serge Normant has long been Julia Roberts’s hair stylist. Thanks, Serge, for making your product here!
Zuma Organic / Bonnie’s Tasty Herb Rub: Julia said she uses this rub ($4 to $9) on chicken and it’s delicious. Must admit I was (and am) pulling for Bonnie’s products. For one thing, she actually returned my call. Pretty amazing considering her life’s been hectic since one of her products was featured on Oprah. Plus she lives and works in Malibu (sigh) which makes me think of the days, growing up, when my siblings and I would drive out from the San Fernando Valley to Zuma Beach. Hot sand. Cool ocean. Beach Boys music piped from speakers attached to the Snack Shack. Wait, where was I? Oh, yeah, Bonnie’s Tasty Herb Rub. In a follow-up email, here’s what Bonnie said:
Well…many of my spices are actually grown in countries where the profits help support their local communities. I am sorry to say that about 50% of the herbs and spices I do use are not grown here in the US…Many times it’s merely because of climate restrictions, space, etc…
All herbs and spices are hand harvested using fair trade practices and everything else about the herbs are USA!!! I package them myself!
I love the idea of your website!! Good luck to you!
Thanks, Bonnie. Good luck to you, too. And can you please get a message to Julia Roberts for me? Tell her to buy more American products. Okay, enough. Let’s say Bonnie’s product is 50 percent made here.
Kathy Kaehler’s Fitness System DVD: Go, Kathy! Her media rep assures me that Kathy’s DVDs are 100 percent produced and manufactured in Los Angeles, including the actual physical DVD itself. Julia’s favorite workout sells on kathykaehler.net for $24.99.
Sea-Thos Foundation Tote Bag: From seathos.org: Sea•thos is based on the English word Ethos, that denotes guiding beliefs or ideals which characterize a community or ideology…The Sea•thos Foundation exists to promote education and awareness of the human impact on the world’s oceans.
Our plastic bottles and bags are gobbled up by sea life. This isn’t good. I get that. Where does this plastic trash come from, so much of it out there in the middle of the sea, far away from land? Some say it comes from those city-block-sized freighter ships that chug back and forth from places like China, loaded with cheap imports. And so I wondered, as is my habit these days, where the Sea-Thos Foundation Tote Bags are made. The website explains–as did a proud Julia Roberts–that the canvas shopping bags ($25) are made of 100 percent “pre-consumer recycled cotton canvas.” Pre-consumer material is the manufacturing waste that would’ve been tossed out. But where are they made? After an initial email stating he didn’t know, when pushed to find out, the Sea-Thos Foundation rep (to his credit) responded:
I just looked at the tote bag, and it is produced in China. We haven’t been able to source totes made from recycled materials in the United States. We are also keen to keep the costs reasonable to the end consumer and be able to make a small profit which go towards Seathos educational initiatives.
So, to raise money to be used to help educate the masses about the environmental evils of plastic products, the Sea-Thos Foundation purchases tote bags from China–and who really knows what “recycled” materials China uses?–and then schleps those tote bags from China clear across our precious oceans on a freighter to the U.S.A. Wouldn’t it be simpler and more environmentally friendly to just make the bags here? That’s the ethos behind China Ate My Jeans. Maybe I should call it China Ate My Jean-thos.
So how do Julia’s favorite things add up? Using the calculator on my (sadly) Made in China iPhone, here’s what I figured. Bear in mind I’ve given 50 percent credit to the U.S.A. for the Melinda Maria bangles (3 @ $185) and Bonnie’s Tasty Herb Rub (1 @ $9):
Total retail value of Julia’s purchases is $933.49. Now, 25 percent of that would be: $233.37 Her U.S.A.-made purchases total: $334.99. So Julia has actually made it across the 25 percent mark with room to spare. Congrats, Julia. Must admit I was shocked and yes, so tempted to put all the Melinda Maria stash on the foreign side of the ledger. But it’s good to be fair, right? Fairness is part of America’s, um, ethos.
Let’s move on to Tom Hanks. His favorite thing: the Nespresso CitiZ & Milk Espresso Maker.
According to Wikipedia, “Nespresso is the brand name of Nestlé Nespresso S.A., an operating unit of the Nestlé Group based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Nespresso machines brew espresso from special capsules containing ground coffee.” Nestle is “the world’s largest food and nutrition company.”
I found the espresso maker at surlatable.com for $349. A Sur La Table sales clerk reported that some of the machines are made in China and some are made in Switzerland. “It’s about half and half,” she said. In 2010, by the way, Nestle reported revenues of $109.72 billion. Go, Switzerland.
Easy to see that Tom Hanks fails the 25 percent Made in U.S.A. test. Oh come on, Tom. Help us out here.
Multiply the totals above (including Julia’s), and see how the ripple effect plays out. The Oprah Winfrey Show typically has 300 audience members in attendance. All those folks received the products discussed above. And Oprah’s viewing audience in the U.S. is approximately 23 million per week. That’s a lot of Americans watching at the “Favorite Things” segment, perhaps deciding to buy some of the products. Imagine if all the products featured had been Made in the U.S.A. Wouldn’t that have been–dare I say it?–inspirational? That’s the kind of promotion U.S.A.-made products need.
Next up: Tom and Julia’s “Favorite Things” get a 100 percent American makeover.