The Three Most Important Things on a Clothing Label
You might look at the clothing label to check the size, but do you ever really look at anything else? Well, you should start! Clothing labels carry a wealth of information that can help us to make better choices for a conscious wardrobe. Here are the top three things we look for and why.
1. The Material
With hundreds of natural and synthetic fibres used in the fashion industry today, it is easy to ignore the label and simply choose based on the feel or look of the fabric. However, not all materials are produced in the same way. If you want to make informed, ethical choices about your wardrobe, it is important to understand the implications of different fabrics.
You might be surprised to learn that many common fabrics are actually made from plastic. Lycra, polyester, elastane, spandex, and nylon are all synthetic, man-made fibres made out of plastic compounds. Plastic-based clothing is bad for the environment for a number of reasons: it uses non-renewable natural resources, it requires significant energy to produce, it will not naturally decompose (think rotting landfill waste) and it releases significant micro-plastic pollution (this is a big deal. Learn more here).
In general, we look for natural materials such as organic cotton, linen or wool. However, there are a lot of new man-made sustainable materials that are also noteworthy. For instance, Tencel is a sustainable fabric made from wood cellulose that is currently rising in popularity. Additionally, materials made from recycled plastic (think fishing nets and water bottles) offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional plastic-based materials. These fabrics are a great option if you are looking for athletic wear that still has some stretch. For instance, check out The Salvage for an awesome collection of activewear created from recycled plastic bottles.
2. The Care Instructions
Hopefully, we all know to separate our light clothing from our dark. However, it is still worth checking out the care instructions of a garment before washing. In fact, it’s a good idea to check the care label even before buying!
If your garment says ‘wrinkle-free’, ‘stain resistant’ or ‘permanent press’, that is generally a red flag for us. This is because they are very likely to contain a coating of toxic formaldehyde in order to gain those properties. Additionally, if a garment says ‘Dry Clean Only’, we often think twice before purchasing. This is because dry cleaning is not only expensive and inconvenient; most dry cleaners use a variety of harsh chemicals to clean our garments. If you love freshly pressed clothing, try looking for a dry cleaner that is committed to high environmental standards.
Lastly, following proper care instructions really helps to increase the longevity of our clothing (for tips on caring for you clothes click here). We are huge fans of the AIAYU clothing labels. In addition to detailed care instructions, they also include relevant educational information. For instance, on their wool items they include the message 'think before you wash!' and explain how natural llama wool is a self-cleaning fibre that requires less washing than other materials. Thus, they simply recommend airing out the garment after each wear. Make sure to check the label to see if you are caring for your clothes in the best, low-impact way!
3. About the Brand
Clothing labels are a great place to try and learn a bit more about the brand you are buying from. The bottom line is that producing ethically and sustainably costs more money. If a brand is paying a premium to do this, chances are they are going to want to tell you about it. While eco-labels such as Fairtrade, or GOTS certified are helpful indicators, many brands are going beyond these stamps to create unique and informative labels that help tell their stories.
For example, We are Zyrcl, and Where Does It Come From both include tracking information on their labels that enable shoppers to view the entire life of the garment all the way back to the cotton fields. So when shopping, make sure to take a peek at the label and see if you can learn anything more about the brand and its story. You might be surprised at how much great information you are missing!
Look at the Clothing Labels. It’s Worth It.
Shopping should be a mindful activity, and looking at the clothing labels on our clothes can help us make informed decisions about the brands we support and the clothes we buy.
* You may notice that ‘Made In’ labels and Eco-certification stamps didn’t get much attention in this article. That is because they are surprisingly complex topics. We will be dedicating some time in the future to provide you with a full breakdown of the most important eco-labels and certifications. Additionally, we will soon be taking an inside look into why “Made In’ labels don’t always tell the whole truth. Stay tuned!