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  • MAP Asia Pacific Ltd

What If You Could Read a Fashion Label Like a Food Label?

One of the biggest fashion trends of late 2021 didn’t have to do with color or skirt length or sequins but rather with sustainability. Or, to be specific, the appearance of clothing labels with data that consumers can use to trace the creation of a potential purchase.

The roots of the trend stretch back to 2019 at least, when Sheep Inc., a knitwear label in London, introduced an NFC tag — or near-field communication (the same tech that enables contactless payment) attached to its sweater hems — that allows customers to track the supply chain of its Merino wool sweaters via an app.

At the Group of 20 meeting in October 2021, Prince Charles’s Sustainable Markets Initiative Fashion Taskforce presented its “Digital ID,” which can trace a fashion item from production through sale and even resale. It will be used by the Taskforce’s 15 brands and retailers including Armani, Mulberry and Chloé this year before becoming more widely available.

And the British start-up Provenance developed software to trace the supply chain of pieces from field to finished garment. Provenance’s technology was first used last fall by Ganni, a Danish brand. It was in December, however, that Nisolo, a sustainable shoe brand in Nashville, introduced what may be the most familiar-looking label of all: a “Sustainability Facts” label inspired by the nutrition facts box on many food products.

Here’s a primer on how it all works.

What’s the difference between these labels and the clothing labels I’m used to seeing on my shirts and sweaters?

For years, clothing labels have offered straightforward information like the country where the item was made, and its material composition by percentage.

But if it’s a cotton T-shirt, that labeling doesn’t explain anything about, say, where and how the cotton was grown or if the people who picked it were paid a living wage. Or if it’s a wool sweater, where the wool comes from and if the sheep were treated humanely. The new labeling offers many more details.


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