Pity the humble clothing label. From high-fashion to basement bargain, hypebeast to Old World luxe, it’s the one universal design element that all items of apparel share, yet most people pay it scant attention. Sure, they’re useful to confirm a garment’s make and size, but other than that, who cares, right?
Well, plenty of people, most of all the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Trade Commission, which require clothing labels to be compliance documents writ small. It’s why all tags, whether stitched to a seam or printed directly onto fabric, include, almost without exception, the name of the manufacturer, the garment’s fiber content, its country of origin, and instructions for laundering.
Beyond an exercise in branding, the clothing label is, in essence, a “regulatory document,” said Michael Colarossi, vice president, innovation, product line management and sustainability at Avery Dennison, a global manufacturer and distributor of adhesive materials, labels, and tags.
It’s for this reason that the clothing label hasn’t changed much since mid-century union workers used it to distinguish their wares. (“Look for the label,” the International Ladies’ Garment Workers exhorted consumers for decades.) That, and the fact that the fashion industry is recalcitrant to change in general.