Fair trade, how to read the label.

“Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.” —Vivienne Westwood

Because it’s all more a bit complex than you might think…

I’ve listed the most important fashion labels when it comes to fair trade clothing.


Becoming a member of the World Trade Organization is only possible if a company provides evidence that it correctly applies their ten fair trade principles. The company must:

1) Create opportunities for those who are less fortunate.
2) Be transparent when it comes to their production process
3) Execute honest trade
4) Pay fair wages
5) Do not force anyone to work
6) No child labor
7) Guarantee equality
8) Have good working conditions
9) Capacity building

10) show respect for the environment

Fair trade international

The former Max Havelaar is committed to certifying Fairtrade cotton, for which it wants to give the cotton farmers a fair price. Since June 2016, Fairtrade International certifies the entire production chain and therefore also focuses on confection and on other fabrics besides cotton. Control body Flo-Cert checks the production process before a brand can receive the Fairtrade label.

Fair wear foundation
Is a multi stakeholder initiative controlled by employers, trade unions and non-governmental organizations. Becoming a member of the fair wear foundation is an indication that a company is working on improving the working conditions in the sewing workshops. It includes a commitment and support platform for companies that want to work step by step in fair fashion.

Better cotton initiative
Cotton initiative works, among other things, on transferring knowledge about how cotton can be grown with fewer pesticides, with more efficient use of water while maintaining good soil quality and biodiversity. Better cotton initiative also pays attention to working conditions, especially on larger cotton plantations.

Organic cotton standard

The organic cotton standard tries to guarantee the traceability of raw materials during the processing. OCS 100 is a label for products that consist of 95% biological material. OCS blended is made from mixed fibers, which consist of at least 5 percent of biological materials to make cotton 95 percent less harmful.

The global recycled standard certifies all steps of the production process for recycling. The purpose of the label is to check the integrity of the recycled product.
Gold: 95 to 100 pct recycled material.
Silver: 70 to 95 pct recycled material.
Bronze: From 30 pct

The recycled claim standard certifies the proportion of recycled material in clothing:
for RCS 100, 95 to 100 pc of the garment consists of recycling, with RCS Blended it amounts to 5 to 95 pc

ISO develops standards such as ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 14001 for environmental measures of specific production sites. If a clothing brand says that they have an ISO 14001 certificate, this probably means that they have an environmental management system within their own operations that is aiming for constant improvement. Because clothing is often produced outside of Belgium, this label is usually not indicative of the garments sustainability.

The Global organic textile standard certifies the process a cotton fluff (or other textile fiber) goes through: from raw material to organic clothing. It makes sure that the raw materials are originated from organic farms. GOTS also speaks about working conditions in the textile chain, such as child labor, forced labor, trade union freedom, and fair wages. However, a fair price for a farmer is not guaranteed by GOTS. A related label is that of IVN. The IVN label goes checks up on more than GOTS do,  in terms of ecology.

Scientific Certification system is an independent body that checks on a set of ecological criteria. The label, which is more relevant for entrepreneurs than for consumers, also has Fair trade standards.

Sustainable textile production is an Oeko tex label that combines ecological and social criteria. This label will not be found on your clothes, but more and more on labels of clothing brands. It depends on a specific factory, for example one spinning mill, weaving mill or sewing workshop. If a brand unpacks with a label, you can demand that part of the chain is STEP-certified. The label goes very far in terms of ecology and health, but less in social matters: meeting legal requirements such as paying the minimum wage is sufficient to achieve the label

Oeko tex standard 100 checks whether there are any harmful residues in the finished product. This label only provides guarantee about the end product and not about the way something is produced and the effect this has on the makers. The STEO by OEKO TEX standard continues to examine the production process

How to shop sustainable fashion

It all comes down to this,  I guess. First of all, what I have been preaching here on this website, over and over. And I will continue to do so,  is to write about buying less. It’s certainly not easy. It requires will power and mindfulness. It requires being rooted, knowing yourself,  and being able to withstand external persuasions.

Second of all, it’s crucial to recycle what you’ve got.  Go and make someone else happy with all the excess stuff you never use. But most of all, try to buy recycled goods or thrifted items yourself at flea markets, vintage and thrift shops for instance.

Buying from locals helps the  local economy but it also means that you’re investing in someone. Something that is all too fast forgotten. in this fast paste life.

Making things for yourself is not only useful, creative and fun, it might help you save a dime or two.

Shop sustainable fashion as much as you can. I’ll try to list and write as much as I can on brands that produce sustainable so that you can use this blog as an inventory.

Get educated. Get to know the materials that clothes are made of. I have written a post on this here

Get to know the certification symbols on fair trade and on textile standards and the ecolabel index. I have written a post on this here.

Published by Catharina

Lover of all things natural

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