Labels that lie.

As life becomes more complicated and the choice of products we are presented with keeps growing, labels are becoming increasingly important. In our private lives and in our textile screen shops we need labels to tell us about the content of the product we’re buying, where it was made, whether there are hazardous elements, whether it needs to be handled in a special way, et cetera.

We assume for the most part that we can trust the labels to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And, thanks to a somewhat blind faith in monitoring systems that we assume to be in place, we tend to pretty much believe the many labels we read every day.

But what if some of these labels we trust are lying to us? What if they can get away with it because of inadequate monitoring? And I don’t mean little white lies like saying an ink is Phthalate free when in fact it has minute traces of Phthalates. I mean whoppers like saying a garment is made of sustainable materials, when it is not.

A lying label is something we have to guard against in our industry because not only can it cause embarrassment, but it can cause losses. If a screen shop put out a product in good faith with a label saying that it is a “sustainable” garment, and the garment turned out to not be “sustainable”, that could be very damaging. Labels have also been known to misrepresent the fabric. I know of a printer that trusted the sewn-in label in a consignment jackets and went ahead with a print in nylon ink. Only when the logo changed colour did they discover that the jackets were in fact made of Polyester.

Harvest the wool by all means, but cruelty has no place in a civilized society.

Harvest the wool by all means, but cruelty has no place in a civilized society.

With the increasing focus on “organic” and “sustainability” in our industry it is worth noting that even the big players can be caught out by miss-labelling of these qualities. Patagonia recently severed its relationship with an Argentinian supplier of wool because of a PETA film showing gross miss-treatment of the sheep from which the wool came. The label’s claim that the harvesting of wool was done in a manner that ensured the humane treatment of the animals, was untrue. The well-known fashion designer, Stella McCartney sourced her wool from the same supplier and has indicated that she is considering switching to animal-free wool.

It’s troubling of course that even a big outfit like Patagonia could be caught out not monitoring their sources and have to endure the embarrassment of a third party like PETA doing their monitoring for them.

As a textile screen printer reliant on the accuracy of labels, you might want to exercise added caution to ensure that lying labels don’t cause you losses.