Who made my clothes?
What are my clothes made of?
If you are an attentive consumer (or buyer or shop’s owner or even a brand), you have probably asked yourself questions like these in front of your purchases.
Moreover, after pandemic season, people are being more attentive to the green and ethic side of fashion and these are legitimate doubts, but they do not always find an easy answer because the production system behind our wardrobes is very complex.
In fact, there are many people involved in the creation of a garment, more than we can imagine, just as the stages of the production process and the factories involved.
It often becomes difficult to understand everything that happens within this long supply chain: what substances/materials are used, what are the conditions of the workers and what is the approach towards the environment and, in some cases, towards animals.
Why ecolabels: organic is not enough!
Of course, the market offers products that are labeled as "organic".
But is it really enough? It is difficult to rely on word or on the self-declarations of companies, given the greenwashing operations that are often encountered within the fashion industry.
"How can we understand if a brand has a facade commitment or a concrete and practical sustainable approach?"
In this article, we want to focus on clues that can help us shed some light and we can hunt for when we shop, never mind if you are a buyer, a shop’s owner or a final customer (and in your life, actually you could be all the three things together!).
Certifications: what are they?
If you look closely at the label of a garment or the details section of an e-commerce (Learn about SEO strategy for E-commerce here), you may come across important information that you should learn to recognize: certifications.
Sometimes we find them in the form of a logo, other times they are mentioned online. In any case, their presence indicates that the product we are dealing with complies with strict quality parameters.
There are many and the requirements vary from one certification to another.
They generally guarantee the use of quality raw materials and in some cases compliance with not only environmental but also ethical parameters.
Certifications are always synonymous with guarantee and transparency.
Therefore, knowing them also allows us to choose those brands or products that reflect our needs and espouse our values.
Certifications: how do they work?
The certifications are issued by organizations or associations that declare that the product we are purchasing complies with certain quality requirements.
Not only the finished product or raw material can be subjected to controls, but also all intermediate production activities in order to ensure that certain requirements are met at all stages of the production chain.
Therefore, when you find the certifications you can be sure that you have found a good product.
Anyway remember that they are optional and companies are not required to respect or display them.
Ecolabels: the most important certifications you should know
There are many certifications of various types, each with its own rules, constantly updated.
They vary from country to country and each meets certain criteria: so it's easy to get lost.
Let's start with the two most complete and best known certifications on the market: GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and Oeko-Tex Standard 100.
GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)
One of the most used and the most important when it comes to organic clothing, that is, garments made with natural fibers from organic farming (the most common are wool and cotton).
We can define it as the most complete certification in the textile sector since it requires very high standards not only on an environmental level, but also on an ethical and social level.
It is based on very strict parameters that must be respected during all stages of the production chain. Each step must be certified: from the collection of the fiber to the labeling of the finished product.
GOTS label is definitely a great guarantee. But it is not so easy for companies to obtain, given the numerous aspects to consider: the product must contain at least 70% of natural fibers from organic farming; the use of chemicals that can be carriers of dangerous diseases is prohibited (only low-impact chemicals are allowed); there are restrictive rules on waste water treatment and requires procedures to reduce the consumption of water and energy; compliance with the social criteria of the International Labor Organization is required (including safe working conditions, no discrimination, prohibition of child labor).
For more information: global-standard.org
OEKO-TEX Standard 100
It is a certification with a specific objective: to protect the consumer's health from harmful substances present in products.
An OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 certified garment has been subjected to very strict controls on the use of the toxic substances contained within it (many of these prohibited, others granted in compliance with the standards imposed by the certification).
If we buy a suit with Oeko-Tex certification, it will not only be its fabric that is certified, but we can rest assured that every element that composes it has also been subjected to checks (zips, buttons, padding, ...).
The analysis and controls of the chemicals used change depending on the intended use of a material or fabric: the more the product will be in close contact with our skin, the more rigid the parameters to be respected.
Based on this prerogative, Oeko-Tex has divided the products into 4 categories:
Clothing for babies up to 3 years old
Products in close contact with the skin (underwear, socks, bed linen, ...)
Products that are not in contact with the skin (jackets, coats, ...)
Decorative material (curtains, tablecloths, ...)
For more information: oeko-tex.com
In this category we find the certifications that aim to promote a good practice of circular economy: the use of recycled materials.
These materials are used to make both semi-finished products (such as yarns) and finished products that we purchase, thus reducing the use of new raw materials, water and energy consumption.
RCS (Recycled Claim Standard)
This is a certification for products that contain at least 5% of RCS certified recycled material, whether it is pre-consumer recycled materials (processing waste) or post-consumption (which are thrown away by the consumer) and which guarantees traceability of the entire supply chain.
You may come across two different logos. This certification, in fact, provides for two standards and changes according to the percentage of recycled material present inside:
Recycled 100: if the product contains 95 to 100% certified recycled material
Recycle Blended: if the product contains between 5% and 95% certified recycled material
GRS (Global Recycle Standard)
Compared to RCS, the products to obtain this certification must be composed of at least 20% recycled materials.
In addition, even if we always talk about recycling, the parameters to be respected are more: this certification, in fact, also guarantees the final consumer compliance with certain environmental and social criteria for workers' rights and strict restrictions on the use of chemicals.
Like the RCS certification, on the other hand, it guarantees traceability and therefore compliance with these criteria throughout the production process (from the first recycling stages to the last link in the supply chain).
Animal friendly certifications
When it comes to wool sweaters, silk shirts or winter quilts, one important thing must be taken into account: compliance with strict criteria that protect the welfare of animals.
There are many certifications that protect these aspects. We list two that, in addition to ensuring the welfare of the animals, guarantee the consumer traceability of the entire production process, from livestock farms to the manufacture of textile products.
RWS (Responsible Wool Standard)
It is a certification that protects the welfare of sheeps and the use of good practices to protect the land where they graze, reducing the environmental impact.
If your wool sweater has this certification, it means that the product contains at least 5% of RWS certified wool and the wool used comes from farms where the respect and well-being of the sheep is held in high regard, letting it live in respect of its freedoms: healthy and correct nutrition, adequate spaces and the possibility of being able to live without pain, wounds or fears.
Responsible Down Standard (RDS)
Even what we don't see requires certification!
If we are looking for animal friendly products, we cannot forget that even our winter duvets can contain feathers of animal origin in the fillings.
With this certification we can be sure that the products we buy are made from bird feathers that come from responsible farms, where the animals are not subjected to pain or suffering.
If you come across this certification, it means that it contains at least 5% certified feathers and down (but beware: only finished products using 100% certified down and feathers can also be labeled with the RDS logo).
Organic Content Standard
If you read this certification you can be sure of two things: that the garment you are buying is made up of at least 5% of organic natural fibers, or produced according to the criteria of organic farming (no pesticides, ...) and that the traceability of the product is guaranteed throughout the production chain, from the farm to the finished product.
You can find this certification on all natural fibers, be they vegetable or animal. Among the most popular there is certainly organic cotton. Organic Content 100: when you see this logo it means that the product you have purchased contains at least 95% organic fiber. Organic Content Blended: for this certification the percentages vary from 5% to 95% (excluded).
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
When we talk about artificial fibers such as viscose or lyocell, we are talking about fabrics made from cellulose, often obtained from endangered forests.
However, there is a certification, the FSC, which can help us towards a more sustainable choice and which is based on compliance with two standards: FM and FSC. These are the certification to look for if you want to buy cellulose fiber based fabrics (such as viscose and lyocell). It also includes all materials of forest origin (tags, packaging, catalogs,…).
Forest management certification (FM) protects endangered forests, ensuring that the cellulose-based fabrics in our garments come from forests that are controlled and managed in a sustainable and responsible way; protects the rights of workers, communities and indigenous peoples and it is economically sustainable (with regard to forest management operations).
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) provides complete traceability along the entire chain from the forest to the finished product. There are three types of labels: FSC100 the raw material comes 100% from FSC certified forests; Mixed FSC the product contains at least 70% of material deriving from certified forests or recycled materials and the remainder from controlled sources; FSC Recycled the raw material of which it is composed derives only from recycled or recovered materials.
For more information: fsc.org
This certification has an important prerogative: to safeguard and improve the conditions of workers for fair trade.
In textiles they issue the certification for cotton and this standard ensures that behind the cotton garment we buy there is a more ethical and sustainable production, which protects the rights of workers as well as their health and safety.
With this certification: GMOs are prohibited; child labor is prohibited; small producers learn the best techniques to minimize the use of water and pesticides; the buyer must pay a Minimum Price (established by Fairtrade) calculated to ensure sustainable production.
For more information: fairtrade.it
The consumer is changing and the slice of the market that requires transparency on the origin of products is increasingly large.
For this reason it is becoming increasingly essential for brands to keep up with these changes and to act ever more concretely as responsible actors. This is why choosing to obtain these certifications is a way for them to demonstrate their commitment.
But succeeding is not easy: certifications are expensive and also difficult to obtain because the companies that request them are subject to strict controls.
So smaller brands or artisans, even if sustainable, cannot always afford them: in these cases, do not limit yourself to seeking certification but try to learn more about the reality in front of you.
NEWS ALERT - Napaani Organic listed again for 21/22 Best Children's Eco fashion Collection
After winning the Gold award last year Napaani is one of the brands that have made to the first round and shortlisted for the 10th Annual Junior Design Awards 2021!