A Lativ announcement on Feb. 3 said, "If you (customers) only accept products made only in Taiwan, then we suggest you do not order from here." (Internet photo)
Taiwanese clothing brand Lativ, which won a reputation at home by proudly displaying a "Made in Taiwan" label, is facing its biggest challenge yet following the recent announcement that it has moved some of its factories abroad.
Lativ announced on Feb. 2 that it will no longer label the place of origin on its products as some of its items are now manufactured abroad, mostly in Southeast Asia. On the following day, the company announced again on its website that, "If you only accept products made only in Taiwan, then we suggest you do not order from here."
Many internet users in Taiwan were enraged by the announcement, feeling the phrasing implied that the company was dismissing its customers. Some famous bloggers even called for a boycott of the company.
Most netizens angered by Lativ's move supported the company in 2010 when it advertised by promoting its "MIT" or "Made in Taiwan" label. By using three photos of old tailors and telling the moving story of Taiwan's withering clothing industry, Lativ promised its customers that it would stick to MIT in order to take care for those that remained in the industry.
The strategy worked brilliantly. Lativ's revenue jumped from NT$10 million (US$340,000) in 2007 to NT$4 billion (US$135 million) in 2011. Analysts say consumers have supported Lativ not only because the quality of its products, but also because of the MIT label. Customers believed that by purchasing Lativ products they would help Taiwan's troubled clothing industry.
Lativ explained that Taiwan's clothing industry can no longer sustain the growing company.
The announcement has been a boon for Sofu, another brand that promises Made in Taiwan clothes. Many customers have said they are abandoning Lativ in favor of its competitor. Yet Sofu, though glad to see sales rise, also worries that it may face the same fate. Sofu said that the clothing industry in Taiwan can no longer support large orders.
Lativ's decision may not be an abandoning of principles, but a revelation that there is a tear in the fabric of Taiwan's clothing industry.