Posted by James F. Brown on May 16, 2009 - 1:52:40 PM
UNITED STATES—RN numbers, also known as Registered Identification Numbers, are assigned by the Federal Trade Commission (part of the US Department of Commerce) to US businesses that manufacture, import, distribute or sell products covered by the Textile, Wool and Fur Acts. An RN number is associated with a single business and is usually shown on a garment label. RN numbers may also identify a foreign manufacturer.
It’s interesting and instructive to investigate RN numbers. The online RN Number Registry and an RN FAQ page are available at ftc.gov/bcp/rn/index.shtml.RN numbers can provide detailed information about where an item of attire originates and who made it. Or perhaps not! That’s because any information tied to an RN number is strictly voluntary on the part of a business that requests one. There are no requirements to provide any specific information to the public.
Going to the Registry Web site and typing in an RN number will show information (provided by the business) associated with the number. For example, it may be nothing more than a business name like “International Clothing Group” or “Brookline Associates, Ltd.” Such names will tell you very little about the company itself or the clothing.
On the other hand, the Registry might provide detailed information such as “Feng Shui Garment Factory,
China,” with a street address, mailing address, voice and fax phone numbers, e-mail address and perhaps even a Web site. In this instance, why all the info? Because the company is a subcontractor who manufactures clothing for a variety of labels. That’s what they do, and they’ll be happy to make clothes for anyone. Rule one of business is to always make it easy for potential customers to contact you.
RN number information can be enlightening. I have two suits. One is Bill Blass, and the other is Jeffrey Banks. They are identical. Same fabric, same cut, same detailing. And the same RN number, made at the same factory in
China. But there is one difference between them: the price. The Bill Blass suit was considerably cheaper!
Another time, I saw three suits for sale at Burlington Coat Factory. They were identical in style and cut, but had different fabrics and colors and different labels too. However, the RN numbers were the same; they were all made at the same factory.
It can also be the case that clothes with the same label can be manufactured by different factories, on different continents. But they may vary widely in their quality, although labels generally have minimum standards that they require any subcontractor to conform to.
In conclusion, checking out RN numbers can make you a more informed clothes shopper and more aware of quality in fabrics and workmanship. It can also help save money, especially when two identical garments from the same place have different prices.
James F. Brown is a business consultant and expert on professional attire.
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