"But in terms of quality manufacturing, to a scale that can satisfy the demand, Rapha has key pieces of performance roadwear made in the Far East." - Quote from Rapha.
It is funny (in the odd sense) that they are small when that image benefits them, or the arguments in support of them, but they are large in the sense that they have so many orders that they cannot be satisfied with manufacturing within their region (or the region of those that purchase their products). It is my understanding that their bib shorts are made in Italy. I would presume the scale of their sales is similar to that of their jerseys? So scale can't be that much of an issue is it?
Many other brands are able to meet demand through the use of European manufacturers and deliver quality that is equal to, or better than, Rapha. This would include Giordana (made in Italy?), Capo (made in Italy?) and Assos (made in Bulgaria and Slovenia?).
The article seems, at best, disingenuous. It would appear to me that the primary reason they manufacture in China is cost. Man-up Rapha! You try to portray this rugged, individualist image in your marketing campaigns. Don't be such a wuss when it comes to explaining your production choices.
By manufacturing in China Rapha can achieve the bottom line that they are after. That should be the bottom line of the article. To try to obscure this by dancing around the issue and bringing up the state of manufacturing in Japan 50 years ago does not address what appears to be Rapha's primary motivation. The things manufactured in Japan 50 years ago were perceived to be (and probably were) of inferior quality. But that changed dramatically over the ensuing years to the point that Japan deserves their current reputation. But just because Japan did evolve does not mean that China necessarily will or, more importantly, are there now. Japan also evolved in a system with more political freedoms and with a government that did not skew the market through artificial currency manipulations that impacted other economies. And we were free as consumers to judge the quality of Japanese merchandise for ourselves without the manufacturers writing one-sided spin pieces. The article was a shell game on Rapha's part and they should be ashamed to treat their customers with so little respect and candor.
And on the issue of "designed in London and made in China"... Give me a break! With so many of their core pieces the design, in terms of cut and fabric, was fixed many seasons/years ago. Now they are just tweaking color schemes, placement of bands on the chest or arms, etc. How hard is that? They absolutely do not engage in the sort of re-design that Assos does when they come out with new pieces. Rapha's design budget (true design and not marketing) would likely pale in comparison to their budget for either production or marketing. And my guess is that their marketing budget as a percentage of revenue is also much larger than Assos (or Giordana or Capo). So to say that it is designed in London isn't really saying very much. Good for you Rapha! You changed some color schemes in London.
I think I wasn't clear in what I meant by size. Nike, Adidas etc are large, long established and, most importantly, have very diverse product ranges and customer bases. Rapha are appreciably smaller despite growing massively in the 7 years they have been in business also they have a very focused product range which by definition has quite a narrow customer demographic. They have never been a clothing company like Santini or Giordana, making stuff in-house. They have, since day one, outsourced their production. The problem is that when you 're based in the one of the most expensive cities in the world, in a country that has stuff all industry capable of producing the product any more, where do you go to get it made and still turn a profit so you can stay in business and grow? Ah yes, Bulgaria, where the wages are less than €400 a month or Romania where they're €600 a month. Compare that to London's average of £2400 per month or the UK's of £2200. that's before you even look at the reliability of delivery & consistency of quality. I love Britain, but one thing we have sucked at for decades is mass production.
As for one sided, yes it is an article from their perspective. They could have just put a puff piece on their site stating that they only use companies run by nice people to produce their stuff and left it at that. No information just expecting us to take it on faith. Instead they stated who they used and linked to that company's ethics charter. That is something that you can check up on. Its more transparent than Assos's or Endura's bumph or Castelli's total lack of information.