Textile Certifications: How to Read Labels

Textile Certifications: How to Read Labels

January 28, 2020

Today, let’s talk about the most important aspect of sustainable fashion: textile certifications. We’ll be answering the most frequently asked questions, but we’ll be happy to address anything we’ve not covered here.

What are textile certifications?

As we’ve already said, textile certifications are the most important part of sustainable fashion. But what exactly are they?

We can describe them as "labels that define an eco-friendly product", or, "a socially ethical product" or "a cruelty free product".

It's good to know that companies are seeking out these textile certifications. So, the farm that grows cotton or the textile company that produces t-shirts, is free to contact the control bodies in charge of certification (usually private organizations, but also associations).

In broad terms: each of these controlling organizations have standards and rules. They would visit the manufacturer to explain and make sure that the company follows certain standards during production.

The controls carried out vary according to the certification being awarded. It can be a simple self-certification, where the company "declares to comply with the required standards", but it could also be much more complex, for example, requiring laboratory analysis of their products.

Now, imagine the textile supply chain as a series of steps: from the raw material to the yarn, from the yarn to the fabric, from the fabric to the dress, passing through the cotton gin, washing, spinning, twisting, weaving, knitting, treatment, dyeing, printing, finishing.

Each of these steps has its own environmental and social impact, and can be carried out by dozens of different companies.

This is why, in most cases, textile certifications are applied to the raw material as this is the first step of the ladder: cultivation in the case of natural fibres, and production in the case of artificial or synthetic fibres.

For example, the Global Organic Textile Standard label is applied to organic cotton, both guarantees that the cotton has been grown according to organic farming standards.

This means that we can NOT apply these labels to just any cotton. Therefore, companies that produce t-shirts in Italy must purchase the organic cotton that is already certified.

Textile certifications therefore define eco-friendly fabrics.

But manufacturer can certify not just the raw materials, but also the further steps of garment manufacturing, such as printing, dyeing, sewing , washing, and so on. For example, the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification guarantees that chemicals used in dyeing and printing are less harmful to the environment. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) apart from certifying the textile, has a service of certifying the whole process of garment creation, such as sewing, printing, dyeing (from field to shelf).

You also have to keep in mind that certification is a paid service, so your local artisan or small responsible manufacturer that uses certified textiles, but does not have the resources to certify the whole manufacturing process might be also your best sustainable choice. 

 

What are the textile certifications?

To make it easier to understand, we have divided textile certifications into 3 main groups. The first one is dedicated to the environment, which also includes organic certification. The second one concerns the social aspect of production. The third one is about animal welfare.

Environmental

Are those certifications that guarantee production leaves a small environmental footprint - but be careful: "reduced environmental impact" does not mean "zero impact", as at the moment there is no certification that can guarantee no environmental footprint at all.

  • Oeko-Tex
  • Global Organic Textile Standard
  • Organic Content Standard
  • Global Recycle Standard
  • Bluesign, etc

Etichette certificazioni tessili ambientali

Social

Are those certifications that guarantee production is ethical or fair trade. Let's talk about social impact and take into account a serious problem of textile production that is mainly related to Fast Fashion (or low cost fashion). That is the exploitation of cheap labour, with all it entails, such as gender or racial discrimination, child labour, and more generally the total absence of rights for workers.

  • Fair Trade
  • Fair Wear Foundation
  • SA8000
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (environmental + social)
  • Oeko-Tex (other versions)

Etichette certificazioni tessili sociali

Vegan

Are those certifications that guarantee production is carried out without animal exploitation. Most importantly, it rejects animal-based materials such as leather, fur, wool, silk, etc., but also excludes any testing carried out on animals.

  • Animal Free
  • FurFree
  • PETA
  • VeganOK

Etichette certificazioni tessili animali

Why textile certifications are so important

We believe that the answer to this question lies in every line of this article - textile certifications are essential because you cannot talk about sustainable fashion without them.

However, we have to insert a few caveats here and it concerns Slow Fashion: traditional, artisanal and local manufacturers that use organic and recycled materials. 

So would you like to buy ethical and eco-friendly products? Slow Nature is the right place to come because it offers an exclusive online collection of sustainable fashion.


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