As a vegan, can I rely on clothing labels?

Before I became a vegan, I wasn’t really interested in the label of clothes I intended to buy. In fact, to be completely honest, the more clothes were made from leather and silk, the happier I was. Indeed, I was brought up on the cult of “beautiful materials” which means that quality of fabrics and elegance of clothes are intimately tied with animal products.

Now, I’m deeply convinced that animals deserve better than suffering or dying for our appearance. Of course, silk, angora, cashmere, feathers, and tortoise look gorgeous. Nature is so beautiful. But humans are ingenious and they can copy, replace, and innovate to dress up with style and without cruelty to animals.

So, if you share these concerns, it could be helpful to know a bit more about textile and haberdashery components when making purchases. As I understand from my reading on the subject, the regulation on clothing labels is not that accurate.

The key document in this matter is the EU regulation on textile names and labels, 2011. You can read the full text for a further understanding of these provisions.

Roughly speaking, what should be remembered is as follows:

  • Textile products are products that contain at least 80 % by weight of textile fibres;
  • Textile products should carry a label indicating the fibre composition, either on the item or the packaging;
  • The expressions ‘100 %’, ‘pure’ and ‘all’ can be used even when a textile product may contain up to 3 % of other fibres considered to be inadvertent impurities;
  • In textiles containing multiple fibres, a fibre which accounts for up to 5 % of the total weight or fibres which collectively account for up to 15 %  may, where they cannot easily be stated at the time of the manufacture, be designated by the term ‘other fibres’;
  • There is a specific requirement to clearly label any non-textile parts of animal origin, such as fur, leather or bone regardless their proportion in the total weight;
  • However, any decoration that makes up 7% or less of the product is excluded from the label. It’s therefore essential to check buttons, trimmings, decorations, fringes, and braids. They can be made from almost anything: shell, bone, wool, leather, feather, silk, tortoise, plastic, nylon, brass, and silver.

To sum up, when it comes to purchasing clothes, it is essential to check labels but also to rely on your best judgement. Up to 15% of textiles and 7% of decorations can remain unknown with potentially animal origin. Regulation on clothing labels should be improved to allow the vegan community to purchase confidently.