In the world of fashion, labels and certifications are a seal of confidence!
Doing business in the fashion world is a long and winding road that is often full of pitfalls, but this doesn’t stop the many new labels that are created every year. In order to stand out from the crowd, some of them advocate for the values of ecology, workplace respect, the protection of animals, and so on.
A commendable process overall, but what guarantees the authenticity of these distinctions? In the fashion world, only labels and certain certifications are a real guarantee for the consumer. It is therefore essential to fully understand what defines the validity of a label, but also what it implies for a brand that is adopting a more responsible approach. Here is a roundup of several small labels that are nonetheless a big symbol!
What is it?
First and foremost, it’s important to make a distinction between label and certification. A certification is a process or approach defined by rules, that guarantees a certain quality and an established conformity. A label, on the other hand, can be private or public, and it corresponds to precise specifications. There are many of them and this can sometimes skew consumer expectations. Nonetheless, each one aims to bring an extra something to a product attempting to be more sustainable. Typically, according to the Climate Change department of the United Nations, the production of textiles is responsible for an estimated 1,2 billion tons of greenhouse gasses annually. This alarming and alarmist number is more than all international flights and maritime shipping together! This is why it is crucial to use certain labels and certifications. These are primarily represented by a graphic symbol, stamped onto a package, that will drive the consumer’s focus on what she or he is buying. By seeing a certain logo, the consumer can quickly understand that the product respects a certain set of specifications that imply a brand’s quality and sustainability. Indeed, they are a guarantee that a brand’s commitments and practices are correlated, a specific vision of fashion that has also imposed itself as a marketing asset for some.
A way of standing out?
Indeed, if we take a look at labels like Oeko-Tex, Fair Trade or EcoCert, a notion of trust automatically sets in. This can be explained by the competition. Beyond real engagements, labels and certifications are a way to stand apart in a saturated market like fashion. By serving as reference points, certifications/labels will guide the consumer’s choices by showing that in the (complex) process of manufacturing, that garment has been duly controlled, analyzed, and thought out. Buying a t-shirt is one thing, but what is more important than respecting human or environmental rights? A product that is labeled and/or certified therefore conforms to specific standards. It is this official character that provides proof for a consumer that they can place their trust in a product. However, labels and certifications are not only applied to sustainable fashion, and that is why certain fake labels have been created, both on national and international levels. Hence it is important for the consumer to do his/her research so that they don’t fall into the trap of “fake specifications.”
The best known labels and certifications
Numerous labels and certifications in fashion contribute to framing the vision for and consumption of a garment. Between respecting the workplace, the environment, or local know-how, here is a selection of the best known and/or most widely used. The Fair Wear Foundation organization is a European non-profit association whose goal is to improve workplace conditions in the textile industry. Hence, member brands guarantee that a specific code of conduct (with precisely eight clauses,) aligned with the social norms of the International Labor Organization, has been respected. Those norms include the absence of forced labor, the right to strike, and a work week limited to 48 hours/week. The Fair Trade label is a symbol that guarantees that products were made following sustainable practices, including a limit on middle men, a respect for the well-being of the worker, and the fairest wages possible. The French EcoCert label promotes ethically produced fashion. This organization, which provides brands with quality control and certification solutions, was created in 1991 and promotes worldwide, sustainable agriculture in 90 countries. Their best known standard is their “Contrôlé Solidaire par Ecocert” or “Certified Sustainable by EcoCert”. This label ensures a reduction of carbon footprint (through the geographic proximity between grower and processor), sustainably sourced raw materials, and some local support in the fashion industry. The Soil Association’s certification shows that fabrics were sustainably produced. Thanks to their symbol, consumers can be assured that the textile was made following certain environmental norms and codes that show respect for workers. The Oeko-Tex 100 certification guarantees that the finished product contains no harmful substances. The Oeko-Tex STeP 100 certification guarantees a respect for the environment and ecological norms. Then, to top it off, the Oeko-Tex “Made in Green” combines the two certifications. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification is a worldwide reference for evaluating organic textiles made according to specific environmental and social norms. Thanks to an annual inspection, every player on the textile chain must guarantee that at least 95% of their fibers are certified organic, and no more than 5% of the fibers are synthetic or artificial, and that no chrome or nickel was used, that the water was used reasonably, and that the packaging is entirely recyclable, etc. Indeed, strict rules, support for an independent organization, and a guarantee of quality!
The Made in France label
According to the Ministry of the Economy, three out of four French consumers are prepared to pay more for a product if it was made in France. That is why certain logos must be adopted for certain brands. They show that national know-how is just as desirable as certain modes of production. Obviously, the best label is the one that says a product was locally produced. And yet, according to the Ministry of the Economy, this is not obligatory in France. A “Made in France” label can signify several things: that the product was either entirely made in France or that it was produced elsewhere but assembled in France. Another specificity that can boost the “Made in France” label is that 45% of its value added comes from France. Beyond that, there are other certifications and labels that reinforce the power of French manufacturing: The Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (EPV) label (Living Patrimony Enterprise), is a label recognized by the government that features French enterprises whose know-how is considered top of the line; The Origine France Garantie certification (Guaranteed French Origin) guarantees that 50% to 100% of a product was made in France. Moreover, this certification takes into consideration social norms and helps preserve national employment. The France Terre Textile label (French Territory) shows that a minimum of 75% of an item is French. This therefore helps to valorize French know-how and places it on the same level as the respect for the environment. Granted, all these certifications and labels form a relatively complex universe. However, they are essential for a consumer when he/she is choosing a product. Between strict specifications and personal values, it is sometimes hard to find a balance between genuine values and a sense of priorities. Nonetheless, it has become a quasi-obligatory rite of passage for any brand to succeed.
Photography : Bask In The Sun / Newstalk Gentlemen Travellers / Asphalte / Hopaal