What Does the ‘Made In’ Label on Your Clothes Really Mean?
When the fashion industry boomed after World War II, the “Made in” label became synonymous with the class and chic factor of any person wearing a certain designer or brand, but what do they really mean?
Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the practice of labeling the country of origin on a manufactured product has been a marker of quality. By the 1990s logos were everything, especially since sportswear (think Nike, Adidas, Fila) hit the fashion market like a jet stream.
In this day and age, the “Made in” label also provides consumers with a indication of the working conditions and wage, safety and health standards of a certain brand and factory. Some countries have become synonymous with the sweat shops that have guilt shamed many large brand names for crimes against the wellbeing of humankind, although these brands have yet to fully implement reverse production methods.
However, through the recent exponential globalization and growth of the fashion industry, the implications of the “Made in” label have become a bit convoluted. Although the apparel factories in countries like India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Korea are often thought of as meccas for terrible working conditions and below poverty level wages, there are several brands working with artisan cooperatives and craftsmen in these countries to produce fairly made goods that improve the local infrastructure.
On the other hand, sweatshops are cropping up in countries like Italy, long known for their quality and impeccable use of materials, complicating the use of a “Made in Italy”, label. Several higher end brands are also producing many of their fashion items in places such as Hong Kong and China at a fraction of the cost of producing them in a European high-end fashion factory, but having them finished or packaged in France or Italy. According to the European Union, this confusingly provides ground for using a “Made in France” label. Transparency is completely invoked in this case, only to falsely protect the reputations of a brand.
So who can you trust? The powerful labeling systems such as Fair-Trade and Certified Organic are somewhat reliable, but the best way is to really research a brand for its transparency and production methods. A full understanding of the integrity of a fashion brand comes from the passion behind its methods of creation, and that will shine through everything the brand offers.
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