Wise Cat Fashion Series: Seriously? The Label on My Sweater is Required by Law?

Mar. 22, 2018

At Avisen Legal, we help many kinds of businesses, including those involved in clothing and jewelry design, manufacture or distribution (or more succinctly: Fashion).  This Wise Cat Series – The Law of Fashion is meant to entertain as well as educate those of us who serve entrepreneurs whose business is Fashion.  

 

Some consumers read the label on every piece of clothing they purchase. Some consumers have never looked at the labels on their clothing. The remaining consumers fall somewhere in between, only reading the care instructions or looking at the type of material used. Clothing labels seek to protect consumers by providing them with information about each garment, including materials, origin, and care instructions. In many countries, clothing labels are required by law, and the United States has enacted three laws for clothing manufacturers and importers:

 

  1. The Textile Fiber Products Identification Act
  2. The Wool Products Labeling Act
  3. The Fur Products Labeling Act

 

Generally, these three laws require every article of clothing to have a label identifying: the fiber content, the country of origin, the manufacturer or dealer identity, and the care instructions. This label must be attached to the garment at the time it is sold to a consumer. The laws around wool and fur products have specific labeling requirements for clothing using either of these materials, while the Textile Act acts as a catchall, creating requirements for all other types of material. Keep in mind that these requirements are for garments sold in the United States; other countries may have differing laws and requirements.

 

In the U.S., clothing labels must be easily visible and be durable enough to survive the manufacturing and distribution process. For shirts and other clothing with a neck, a label indicating the garment’s country of origin must be placed inside the center of the neck, halfway between the shoulder seams. Clothing labels must also specify garment care instructions and warnings. For example, a label must disclose if a garment will deteriorate unless hand washed. Care instructions must be permanently attached to any article of clothing that is intended to be worn to cover a person’s body (i.e., a jacket or pair of shorts). The care labeling rule does not apply to shoes, hats, and gloves.

 

Wool and fur clothing must follow the requirements under both their respective law and the general textile fiber law.

 

Wool Garments

 

Wool clothes–even those that only contain a small percentage of wool–have specific labeling requirements. These labels must include:

 

  • The percentage by weight of the wool fibers, and the percentage of all other, non-wool fibers (if each makes up 5% or more of the garment)

  • The percentage by weight of wool in any non-fibrous matter (such as buttons and zippers)

  • The registered identification number (RN) and name of the garment’s manufacturer

  • The name of the country where the wool garment was manufactured or processed.

 

Fur Garments

 

Special labeling requirements also exist for items of clothing that use animal fur, such as fur lining or hoods. Labels on fur garments are required primarily to prevent consumers from being misled by businesses. Consumers want to be informed in their purchasing decisions and rely on labels to determine whether the fur on a coat is real or fake. Some consumers are looking to avoid real fur. Others want to make sure they are actually purchasing real fur. Labels on fur garments must include:

 

  • If the fur is natural or pointed, dyed, or bleached

  • If the fur is used or damaged

  • The name of the animal

  • The country of origin of the fur products

  • The registered identification number (RN) and name of the garment’s manufacturer

 

Potential Penalties

 

Incorrectly labeling clothing can lead to major consequences, like these four big-name companies dishing out $1.26 million in penalties. If a company fails to include the required labels on clothing, it may face monetary penalties. To prevent the same violation from occurring again, the Federal Trade Commission can issue an administrative order. Failure to follow that order can result in a fine of up to $16,000 per violation. Violations of the wool or fur garment laws can lead to a misdemeanor, a fine up to $5,000, and one-year imprisonment..

 

Whether you’re involved in the manufacturing of garments or the operation of a retail store, you must be aware of and comply with clothing label laws. Check out this comprehensive summary of labeling requirements from the Federal Trade Commission.

 


Written By:
Kimberly Lowe

For almost 20 years Kim Lowe has lawyered from the trenches. Kim lawyers from experience, using her knowledge of the law and understanding of how both for-profit and nonprofit business enterprises operate.

Emilee Walters is a second year law student at the St. Thomas School of Law. Emilee is an Avisen Fellow exploring a legal career in business law.

E-mail Kimberly

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