Clothing labelling systems

2015 05 25

Fashion has always been about self-expression. A newer phenomenon is the globalisation of style through brands and labels. Most of the clothing we are now consuming comes from China, Turkey, India, Bangladesh and Tunisia1 — most of the countries where labour costs are low and workers have few rights. 

The clothing industry generally is notorious for its poor treatment of workers — many of whom are from the most vulnerable social groups, particulary women and children. Overall production cycle of cloths also generate significant environmental damage. For example cotton, which is the most popular fibre, is mostly grown in monoculture and is a very pesticide-intensive crop – although it is only grown on 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, cotton accounts of 16% of global insecticide releases – more than any other singe crop worldwide.

Therefore there is a growing demand for the industry to change and number of smaller ethical clothing companies, but also big brands are striving to produce urban gear while providing good conditions for their workers, and having minimal environmental impact. At least they say so. Here we look at some of the most popular clothing labelling systems available in our countries which evaluate different parts of the clothing production process by environmental and socio-economical criteria.

But You can always choose to opt out of the world of brand fashion, and create your own look from charity shops, or swap clothes with your friends. You can also get creative with a needle and thread or a sewing machine, to customise clothes or make your own.


FLO Fairtrade is the most widely recognized fair trade certifying organisation in Europe. Fairtrade standards for cotton require that farmers be organized into cooperatives that function in a democratic and transparent manner; that they receive a set fairtrade minimum price of seed cotton, plus a development premium to be used by cooperatives for social and economic investments; that they minimize the use of chemical agro-inputs; and that human rights are followed and work safety are followed. Child labour is prohibited. FLO Fairtrade social standards apply only to the primary producers – cotton growers. Companies that handle fairtrade cotton must “demonstrate efforts” that they are complying with International Labour Organisation’s conventions and provide reports of their progress every two years to FLO Fairtrade.

A world-wide recognised organic textile certificate. The scope of certification encompasses the whole production chain.

The certification has a range of environmental criteria, including the prohibition of the use of specified toxic substances, packaging material, water treatment and others. The farmers must be certified according to an internationally recognised organic standard and operators from post-harvest up to garment making process are regularly inspected also for minimum social criteria defined by International Labour Organisation as well as for environmental criteria.

The standard provides for a subdivision into two label-grades: organic with 95+% certified organic fibres, and label „made with X% organic material”. Currently there is 1 GOTS certified company in Latvia – „Orgamint Home”.

Fair Wear Foundation is focused on the quality of life of factory workers. They check the conditions in factories in production countries and look at the way of communication between brands and factories. Labour standars include free choice of labour, no discrimination, no child labour, freedom of association and collective bargaining, payment of a living wage, no excess working hours, safe and healthy working conditions and a legal contract. Workers themselves can complain directly to Fair Wear foundation, which reports publicly about brand performance, progress in factories and worker complaints. Consumer can check the brand sustainability at and create a list of brands that sell in the consumer’s country. In Latvia the following brands are available that undergo FWF inspection: Continental Collection, Jack Wolfskin, Suit Supply, Takko Fashion and Vaude.

The EU Ecolabel standard for textiles states that the product with the label has been produced with a limited use of chemicals, reduced water and air pollution and that the textile is more resistant to shrink during washing and drying and that there’s colour resistance to washing, rubbing, light exposure etc. It can be awarded to all kinds of textile clothing and accessories, interior textiles and fibres, yarn and fabric.

The International OEKO-TEX® Association consists of 15 textile research and test institutes in Europe and Japan. The standard aims to ensure that the chemicals used throughout the production process of various textile products are not harmful or dangerous to human health. The scope of the human ecological requirements is based on the intended use of the textile. In principle, the more intensively a textile comes into contact with the skin, the stricter the limit values it must fulfil.


Better Cotton Initiative is a certification system similar to Fairtrade – member based organisation, made up of various stakeholders – NGOs like the WWF but also huge companies like H&M, Nike and IKEA. More than 1 million farmers are currently part of the initiative. The certification is mostly interested in the environmental aspects of the impact of cotton farming, but nevertheless it pays attention also to the working conditions and human rights. It also carries out audits of the supply chain, but it has no set minimum price, Further information on this certification will follow.