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Clothing labelling – the importance of getting it right


How to ensure garment labels meet UK requirements

As with so many trading laws, the regulations governing the labelling of textile goods, including clothing, shoes and fashion accessories can be a minefield for the unwary. Before any textile based clothing item can be put on sale, the seller must satisfy themselves that it complies with the relevant legislation. Both the European Union (Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011) and the UK (The Textile Products (Labelling and Fibre Composition) Regulations 2011 (SI 2012 No.1102) have legislation which covers this area and, while guidance notes are available such as this helpful PDF document from the UK government Department for Business Innovation and Skills, it remains the responsibility of manufacturers and retailers to ensure that their products comply with the legislation itself.

Labels themselves should be removable and, given the amount of information which they may be required to carry are generally of the double-sided “swing tag” type. Specialist companies such as QuickLabel Systems market commercial quality digital label printing machines which can allow manufacturers to meet their own labelling requirements without the need for potentially expensive and inflexible subcontracting.

There are four key areas to be considered when providing information on a printed garment label. While these are discussed here in turn, it must be stressed that this is not a definitive guide and there is no substitute for careful study of the regulations themselves.

Fibre Content

In general, the label must indicate the composition of fibres in the garment in a clear and understandable way, for example, “wool 20%, cotton 80%.” There are exceptions, such as where the fabric components are not the main lining of a product, or where the fibre forms less than 30% of the total by weight of the textile product. Terms like “pure” or “100%” must be avoided unless they are true. For example, a manufacture cannot use the term “pure cashmere” of a product which is 80% cashmere, 20% cotton. The term “mixed fibres” can be uses, but only if, for instance, it’s impossible to accurately determine how the fibre itself was manufactured.

Country of Origin

Generally speaking, this is not a legal requirement covered by this legislation. However, it is still possible to fall foul of other legal requirements if care is not taken in labelling some products. For example, if a garment bears a union jack symbol but was made in China, it could be considered misleading – and therefore illegal – if the garment label didn’t make this clear. If the customer could be misled as to the true origin of the garment, it could be an offence unless the labelling is unambiguous.

Care labelling

While not mandatory, providing information on washing and general care instructions is strongly encouraged, possibly using the European standard GINETEX symbols – although, since they are registered trademarks, these symbols will attract a fee for their use.

Flammability

Garments which could be used as nightwear – and particularly children’s nightwear – are subject to labelling regulations as to their flammability. Children's nightwear must satisfy the flammability requirements specified in British Standard 5722. In addition, baby’s garments and adult nightwear must carry a permanent label stating whether or not they meet this standard. This article is a brief introduction to an important subject. Different regulations cover, for example, footwear, fabrics and floor coverings. All applicable UK and EU regulations apply equally to imported goods, making it imperative that wholesalers, retailers and import/export firms are clear as to their requirements. Better to spend some time familiarising yourself with the relevant regulations themselves rather than potentially running the risk of committing a criminal offence.

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