Clothing labelling laws – what you can and cannot write on labels

Labeling laws

Clothing labelling laws – what you can and cannot write on labels

When looking at clothing labels, i.e. swing tags, stickers, tickets and labels, most people check the size and/or the price – and that’s it. The general public don’t look further than necessary – unless they are searching for something specific, like what material the garment is made from or which country it was made in.

A label is a significant part of the textile process; a way of signing off your finished product like a painter signing a canvass.

Sometimes there’s not much to see, while other times labels can be hiding little gems of humour which add to your brand.

Whatever details you choose to add to your clothing labels, it’s important to understand that you can’t just put anything on there. There are rules and regulations under consumer law about the information attached to a product.  

Labeling laws

Clothing Labelling laws protects consumer

In the same way food companies can’t claim something is suitable for vegetarians when it’s not, or Coca-Cola can’t claim to be sugar-free, the public are protected from false or misleading statements on the things they buy. This law extends to the information on clothing labels.

This means if something is made in China, you’re not allowed to say it’s made in Australia, or if it’s cheap polyester, you can’t claim it’s 100% cotton.

On top of that, under the Australian Trade Descriptions Act, imported clothing and textiles are required to have a trade description written on them in English, in legible characters, in a permanent and prominent position.

The problem with this is, “trade description” isn’t a specifically defined term, so what are you legally required to put on your labels?

Under the law, the term is taken to mean an “honest and accurate” description of the goods, including their country of origin.

How globalisation causes problems

Ok, it’s all fair enough so far… you can’t mislead the consumer about what your clothes are made of, or where they come from.

But what do you do it if your clothes are assembled in China, but the material came from Bangladesh?

Add to that the fact that clothing labels tend to be quite small, and manufacturers simply don’t have the room to explain the complex story behind the origins of a garment, along with sizes, care instructions, and brand logos.

Clothing manufacturers need to make a decision, and luckily the Australian Consumer Law offers guidance when it comes to globalised garments.

clothing labelling laws

Grown in… product of… made in…

Manufacturers ultimately get to decide what goes on their labels, but whether they choose to explain where their garment was made, what it’s made from, or which country it was assembled in, there are strict rules to follow.

If the main selling point of your clothing is the fabric, say bamboo for example, then Australian Consumer Law dictates that the country in which the bamboo was grown needs to be on the label.

If the manufacturing process includes materials from different countries, then it’s probably best to avoid the “grown in” description.

“Product of” is very similar to “grown in” but can also include synthetic fibres (which of course aren’t grown). Again, whichever material makes up the largest proportion of the fabric is the one you should explain on the label.

The “made in” moniker is slightly more ambiguous.

The criteria set out for clothing labelling laws state that the finished product must be substantially transformed in that country in order to be named on the label. This doesn’t mean simply adding a zipper onto a jacket – the jacket would need to be in its constituent parts, shaped, sewed and coloured before being considered substantially transformed.

Only then can you say it was made in that country.

Funny clothing label

Labelling needs to be done right to avoid fines and protect your brand

Labels are an important part of the clothing industry and consumer laws take them very seriously. The consequences of including incorrect or misleading information on a garment can include significant fines, not to mention damage to your brand’s reputation.

No matter what you want to do with your clothing labels, we can help you.

We have years of experience in every type of label, from basic nylon printed to beautifully woven silk or cotton.

Our global supply chain and contacts can help make your labels stand out.

Contact us today if you would like to know more about how we can help your business.