Why make fashion labels as readable as food labels?


by Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe

Fashion trends come and go, but sustainability is more than a seasonal trend on the fashion menu. The concept sounds great. But how can sustainability be woven into the standard practices of a fashion industry beset by a host of ESG-related concerns? A place to start is with product digitization to understand the full lifecycle of a fashion garment. Then, make that journey visible not only to consumers but to everyone in the whole value chain. And finally, make fashion labels as readable as food labels are today.

Creating a pattern for sustainable fashion

Fashion brands and retailers, in response to demand from savvy consumers, government agencies, and their own sustainability commitments, understand the scrutiny they are under. In response, many brands are embracing product digitization, assigning unique digital IDs to individual garments. This enables tracing of a fashion product from production all the way through to sale, resale/secondary market use or recycling. Creating a pattern for sustainable fashion starts with traceability technology. Brands realize this in a lot of ways, including fashion labels. 

The fashion label or tag on a garment can carry a great deal of information thanks to product digitization. It’s possible to make fashion labels as informative as food labels are today. And as customizable as the fashion brand wants to make it. What format should the information be presented in? How should the consumer or others in the value chain access the information? What data and information should be included? Good examples of valuable data include extended supply chain information, care instructions, reuse, recycle and re-commerce information, and of course sustainability (social and environmental) metrics, such as percentage use of recycled or raw materials, organic textile certifications, carbon footprint and transport data and/or water and energy use or savings.

Traceability: The label packs a punch

Traceability will be the common denominator in creating a sustainable and transparent fashion industry. Unique digital IDs enable a detailed history of a garment’s journey, from raw materials to production and distribution. For regulators, this ensures that fashion brands comply with a range of legislation and policy. For consumers, this offers clarity and facts that can contribute to making informed purchasing decisions. The label – whatever form that takes – is just the delivery method for a variety of critical product information, made accessible by scanning or interacting with it.

Making fashion labels readable: The ingredients of transparency and sustainability

As the demand for transparency and sustainability grows, fashion labels have the potential to revolutionize the industry. In the same way that consumers expect and scrutinize food labels for nutrition information (and more), fashion has all the ingredients for shifting to a world of fashion labels that provide transparency through traceability, delivering valuable insights about a garment’s origin, supply chain, care instructions, and end-of-life possibilities. 

Thanks to traceability and product digitization technologies, the vision of data-rich, informative and readable fashion labels is becoming a reality. 

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