The textile sector is one of the most representative of Spanish industry, contributing to the wealth of the country with close to 10% of the business fabric in Spain. However, in spite of this daily consumption little is known about the guarantees of traceability clothes labelling must inform about. The purpose of this study is to present a work of analysis of the compliance with the content of the labelling in this sector. For his objective, a research was developed through the consideration of 32 businesses of the textile sector in the city of Córdoba (Spain) where were photographed each label for its later analysis and a confirmation of the regulation. The results show that the majority of labels are incomplete and insufficient. Therefore, it’s necessary the existence of an European public organism with a competence to accredit the manufacturing, distribution and commercialization of textile garments, protecting the rights of workers and the consumers’ access to information.
What guarantees are there in buying one of the most frequently purchased products?
Considered unanimously as the first modern industrial activity, the textile sector was introduced into Spain in the nineteenth century. At that date, Spain was a country mainly centered on agriculture, with the exception of Catalonia and the Basque Country as the first two industrialized regions. In its beginnings, the textile production was dominated by its artisanal nature, being manufactured from natural materials such as lamb’s wool, linen or cotton.
Nowadays, Spain is among the top major world powers in fashion.Footnote 1 The fashion sector advances with giant steps and this is possible thanks to the internationalization of local firms, innovation in buying-selling channels, the originality of the materials and processes, strategic alliances and service quality (Gumbau 1998; Coll and Blasco 2009; Sojo 2012; Kosińska et al. 2014) Concerning the textile sector, the labelling requires a particular study, being an aspect of great relevance and which is in the spotlight: labelling is the most effective way of linking with the consumer the maker’s indications regarding the characteristics, instructions and conservation of the product. Given its relevance in the creation of a connection between both extremes of the production chain, a tendency has been developed to put increasingly more information on labels with a view to attracting buyers. These seek to purchase products with certain characteristics, an origin or a specific manufacturing process, among other considerations (Sauwai et al. 2009).
The current paper approaches the study of textile labelling (excluding footwear), regarding its content and regulation. Its aim is to make known, especially to young people, the information concerning textile labelling, the norm it has to comply with and a real analysis of the situation in the shops most frequented by this target group. Additionally, it have been analyzes 32 shops in the city of CórdobaFootnote 2 (Spain) to provide a sample of the reality of this topic. The purpose is to create an awareness of the importance of knowing the content of the labelling, so that shopping decisions are backed by true facts which offer a certain security about the quality, origin, way of manufacturing and the materials used in the garment purchased. The article is finished by drawing our conclusions.
A surviving sector
Spain has to its credit some of the world leaders of the sector (the Inditex group and Mango are examples), firms associated with the fast fashion phenomenon, having thousands of workers and an international presence. They continue growing and consolidating themselves. What is really relevant about this sector comes from analyzing its behavior in the context of the economic crisis which the country is going through. The fashion sector, including clothing and footwear, is in the third place of the distribution of the shopping basket of the purchases of Spanish people, 11% of income being assigned to it in 2015. It is only behind food (27%) and housing (23%), thus making up the triangle of basic goods necessary in all human life (CESCE 2016).
The spending on clothing in Spain was 28,488.54 million euros in 2016, according to the data from the National Statistics Institute (INE). Catalonia is the community with the highest spending on clothing—5,027.34 million euros—followed by Andalusia—4,740.93 million euros and Madrid—3,932.37 million euros. The evolution over the years 2009–2015 presents a growth in all the regional communities. The increase at the national level is 16% in a Spanish family’s spending on clothing. As to the spending per inhabitant in clothing in Spain by Regional Community, a Spanish person spent an average of 612€ in 2015 (EAE 2016).
For the reader to know beforehand what to expect from this study, it is necessary to explain what encompasses textile labelling. The definition of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines “label” as “Piece of paper, cardboard or other similar material, generally rectangular, which is put on an object or good for its identification, valuation, classification, etc.…”. This definition clearly depicts its functions but does so generically. The need arises to express the specialities which textile labelling has, as well as the obligations that it seeks to comply with. Hence comes the need to regulate the product which is offered on it. This is for both the consumers and the workers to be protected. This then passes to the company which is behind the garment that is purchased in the shops where we are habitual users. Labels are the only tool that consumers can use for getting information about ethical, and environmental considerations, unfortunately, this market is known for its lack of effective labelling.
Few authors analyze the scenario found in the textile labelling concerning a specific geographic area (Boström et al. 2005; Stolle and Micheletti 2013). Authors such as Correa et al. (2010) consider the relation between the systems of identification and the management of the supply chain, but from a view of logistic effectiveness between the actors involved in that chain. Choudhury (2014) and Austgulen (2016) point the textile and clothing industry especially important as is considered one of the most polluting industries, so that is the explanation to the increasingly interest about environmentally sustainable textile consumption (Austgulen 2016).
Nevertheless, there are authors who refer to the “eco” label in general or institutions regarding it, as Eco-tex (Mehalik 2000; Gómez 2015) points out the boom of interest of ecological labels and of fair trade. An example lies in the case of cosmetics. Increasingly more brands inform that they do not test them on animals (cruelty free and toxic free). There is today a broad movement that seeks the eradication of animal experimenting and on social networks renovated lists are frequently shared of brands which keep up with the European Regulation of 2013 of the prohibition of testing on animals. An equally ambiguous regulation allows brands to exempt themselves if they show that they do not have a reliable alternative system. Regarding the textile sector, this is in a much more initial stage, except for the labels of clothing lines manufactured with 100% organic cotton (Sanches et al. 2015). Society must demand the right to consume clothes responsibly. The label eco-friendly is related with sustainability and preservation of the environment, but it says nothing about the origin of manufacture. Other authors’ works address an environmental context immersed in the textile industry. De Oliveira et al. (2016) demonstrate that carrying out innovation programs contributes to business development and is related with eco-innovation. Galleli et al. (2015) underline the competitive advantage of sustainability in the Brazilian textile industry. According to their work to do means a great potential to advance as an element of differentiation and they support the need to implement sustainable practices in the fashion production chain as an opportunity of internationalization and an opening to foreign markets (Küster and Vila 2011).
Lastly, a minority of authors center their studies on the problem inherent to the complete disintegration of the textile production. Iborra and Peris (2010) point out the lack of clarity in determining the transparency of reports in the textile sector. Among other aspects, they refer to the supplier countries. Moreover, they maintain that there is a lack of involvement of the different actors in the decision making. The work of Veludo et al. (2014) is revealing. Its results show that among young clothes consumers, only those who have a greater social awareness and a feeling of community are willing to reject buying clothing made without complying with the labor rights of developing countries, in conditions of slave work. The personal advantages obtained from acquiring the item (for example, to be trendy, have a good shopping experience) prevail over the concern for consuming responsibly. Environmental preoccupations had a greater dissuasive power in the shopping in their study.
Everything referring to Spanish textile labelling is to be found in the Royal Decree 928/1987 (1987). Here it can be found a positive delineation indicating that this is subject to the obligation of containing a label and a negative delineation which indicates those textile products exempt from labelling. On the other hand, this regulation indicates other very important aspects of the labelling, such as what it must contain and where it must be placed.
The same Royal Decree 928/1987 (1987) classifies as textile products “all those which raw, semi-finished, made, semi-manufactured, manufactured, semi-produced or produced are exclusively made up of textiles fibers, whatever the process followed for their mixture and obtainment”.
Textile products, in accordance with what is established in the rights of consumers, must be labelled. However, the regulation 928/1987 limits the subjects that must do so. These being, “the firms dedicated to the manufacturing, distribution and commercialization of textile products and also being subject all the textile products which are made, commercialized or distributed in the national market.”
Contents of textile products labelling information/regulation
According to what is established by the Law of Labelling and Composition of textile products,Footnote 3 the labels of these products must obligatorily show information. The information which this regulation refers to is the following:
Name or corporate name or designation of the manufacturer, trader or importer and, its residence.
Products made in Spain must contain the national manufacturer’s industrial registration number.
Items imported from non-EEC member states must note the importer’s tax ID number.
The traders can label the products with registered trademarks to which they must add the previously mentioned data.
The label will be made of a resistant material and must be permanently sown or stuck to the clothing and have the same lifespan.
If the textile product has a wrapping, its labelling must either be visible from outside or also figure on the wrapping itself.
“The facultative indications or information, such as «preservation symbols», «non-shrink», «fireproof», «impermeable», etc., must figure in a clearly differentiated manner.”
In the case of the product being aimed at an industry, a public organism, institution or firm which purchases the product wholesale for own consumption, it will be able to forego its label, this information being contained on the delivery note.
All the obligatory indications must appear clearly visible and legible for the consumer.
If the product is made up of various parts with a different composition, the label must specify the composition of each part.
“The composition in fibers of items of corsetry will be indicated giving the composition of the whole of the product or else the composition of the different parts of these items.”
The separate labelling to which the previous section refers must be done in such a way that the consumer always knows which part of the product it is referring to.
The composition in fibers of the «burnt-out» type of fabric will be given for all the product or the composition of the base tissue and that of the fabric that has undergone «burnt-out» treatment will be indicated separately, these elements having to be expressed by their denomination.
In embroidered textile products the composition will be given either for the totality of the product or by its parts.
“The composition of a core and a cover of a different fiber, presented as such to the consumers, will be given either for the whole product or separately.”
In the case of velvet products, stuffed toys and alike, their composition will be offered for the whole of the product or separately. If they are made up of a base and a differentiated layer of use consisting of different fibers, there will be a reference to both elements.
Everything that has been referred to must appear in the official Spanish language of the State.
There are data that, although their inclusion in the labelling is not compulsory, contribute information about certain characteristics of the product and its preservation: way of washing (wet or dry, by hand or by machine, etc.), which products are to be used and which not, if an iron or dryer is admissible, among others. In practice, the labelling of preservation is present in the majority of textile items given its essential and practical nature, avoiding the possible deterioration of the items due to an inappropriate cleaning treatment.
The symbology used corresponds to the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), is owned by Ginetex and has 5 internationally recognized symbols: Wet cleaning; Dry cleaning; Product; Drying; and Ironing. One must pay attention to the order and use of the pictograms. Figures 1 and 2 indicate the information from Ginetex.
The standard which regulates the labelling of origin, commonly known by made in which appears on the label of imported textile products, has been recently much more blurred than when it is a question of food products. Discrepancies between the EU Member States which hinder a unanimous decision and that result in there not currently being any compulsion to label indicating the origin of the product as a regulation is lacking in both the European and the national areas. The origin of a product only must be noted when it comes from a country that has not signed the agreement of the World Trade Organization.
With the aim of increasing the students’ sensitivity, as real and loyal consumers of their favorite clothes shops, we wanted them to be the ones who selected the establishments (Bigné et al. 2006; Mwiya et al. 2019; Cardoso et al. 2017). The selection of this segment of young consumers is due to the fact they are the future consumers, as well, as the current ones about the product referred in this study. Moreover. Likewise, previous researches consider the educational level essential in consumer behaviour (Badets 2002), so that, the convenience of contemplating separately.
Likewise, it has been opted for a methodology replicable in the future by themselves, without any economic cost. Observation as a method of collecting information enables these conditions and allowed describing the situation of the sector. It is also the most recommended method for cases in which the subjects analyzed refuse to participate in the research as they face the possibility of harming their commercial brand.
For the field work an observation of daily reality was carried out with the study of the labels. Visiting 32 businesses of Córdoba, each label were photographed for its later analysis and a confirmation of the regulation.
The selection took into account the ranking of preferences of 150 students of the Degree of Business Administration of the University of Córdoba. They showed their interest by enrolling in a workshop of responsible consumption the 13th and 23rd. March 2017. In parallel, as future entrepreneurs the training in values of transparency and business ethics was deemed to be very useful for students of this Degree.
The preferences of these students between 19 and 22 years old was considered. The respondent had to make a ranking of the ten clothes shops where they most shopped. There were 44 establishments after the data collection and 32 had valid data.
Furthermore, the analysis of the labels of the businesses designated had to be homogenous. Hence, a basic garment was chosen that could be reproduced in different clothes shops and would be easy to find in different styles of establishments. In this sense, after prior visits with the aim of identifying the fabrics, patterns and styles of the clothes, the garment selected was a white short-sleeved woman’s T-shirt. To maximize the similarities between these items, this garment had to be plain, without adornments, attachments or patterns.
Results and discussion
The photographs of the inside and outside labels were taken in the following
By inside label it refers to that stuck to the clothing permanently—as its lifespan has to coincide with that of the garment—which is found inside it and tends to contain the most technical information such as: pictograms of preservation, composition and information of the maker, among others.
On the other hand, the outside label—considered as being attached to the garment temporally—gives the consumer information about the product, such as: size, price, brand and a bar code whose function is to expedite the shopping process, among other information, such as the material used in its fabrication. This label, which is more commercial, is also used to reflect a brand ranking.
For the study of the outside labelling it has been analyzed the information, attractiveness, form, price, material and color:
This factor means to examine if the information which is given to the consumer is appropriate. To do so, it has been established a scale which goes from scant information, to average and to complete information. The first is that the label only contains either the price or the size, the second that it has the price and the size and the last that it includes the price, the size and additional information.
In this case, it was analyzed the appearance and originality of the label, centering ourselves on the design chosen by the brand as its presentation card. For considering a label to be attractive it must has both a nice appearance and original elements which, differentiating it from the labels of the competition, make it exclusive. To apply this criterion, it has been established a numerical scale from 1 to 5, where one corresponds to a not very attractive label and five is a very attractive label.
Here it has been studied the figure chosen for the presentation of the label, either circular, rectangular or any other geometric figure.
It has been compiled the price marked for the garment by the different shops visited.
Here it has been focused on the material used for the manufacturing of the label as well as the durability it presents.
To complete the analysis of the label it has been noted what color is used by the different brands to make it. This is often connected with the color the consumers identify the brand by, or else it is the compositions of colours which, being most eye-catching, attracts the consumer’s attention.
For the study of the inside label, it has been analyzed the information, material, clarity, appearance and language:
In this factor it has been analyzed if it complies with the guidelines set out in the Royal Decree 928/1987 (1987) which refers to the label’s obligatory content. To do so, it has been established a scale which goes from null information, to scant, average and complete information. The first means that the garment lacks an inside label, the second that it complies with at least two requirements, the third that it complies with more than three requirements and the last that it complies with all the requirements.
Applying what is established by the law mentioned, it was here studied if the label is permanently sown or stuck to the garment and if the material used in its making has the same lifespan as the garment. The classification according to this criterion was between low resistance, average or high. Having low resistance meant that the print easily disappears and that the material is not difficult to destroy, average that either the ink or the material is of low quality, and high that both the ink and the material have a great durability.
With this factor the study analyze if the contents of the label are precise and easily understandable by users. In this case, the classification is between, high, average and low, according to our own criterion as users.
It is noted if the presentation of the information on the label follows an order and enables it to be perfectly legible. A classification has been established between and an acceptable and a good appearance. Acceptable is when it complies with only one of the two aspects considered and good is when it complies with both.
In this factor and according to what the Royal Decree 928/1987 (1987) establishes, it has been analyze if the label complies with the requirement that it is compulsory for the label’s content to be in Spanish.
Having complied all the information, the results shown in the following Table 2 are a comparison of each of the labels found in the shops selected and see the photos of each one in the annex.
Regarding the textile labels, as to the information that the consumer receives from the outside labels, the majority of them are incomplete and insufficient. Nonetheless, it is to be mentioned that the information contained is scanter and less clear is in small businesses. This result is in the line of Staden et al. (2017), in their research take female consumers’ use of clothing labels, “Although respondents indicated that they read and understand clothing labels, results revealed problems experienced when attempting to use the information provided” (p. 79) (Table 2).
Referring to the label’s degree of attractiveness, it was found a broad diversity as this is a very subjective factor, depending on the perception which each person has of it. The factors form and material used in the making of the label are those which present more homogeneity in the sector, as the labels found were mostly rectangular and made of cardboard. The same cannot be said of the price factor, which is quite varied, ranging from 3.50€ to 32.00€. The combination of white and black or white with other tonalities are the mixtures most used for the presentation of the outside label.
As to the general results obtained about the inside label, referring to the information depicted in it and which enables the consumer to know about the garment (producer, distributor, preservation, etc.) mainly it is presented completely. Regarding the material used for making it, most comply with what is established in the current regulation about the label, the material being highly resistant. On the other hand, the information which appears on most labels is completely comprehensible. Chiefly, the appearance of the content can be qualified as acceptable, but the order followed hinders some aspects of its legibility. Last, the language used on the label is Spanish, so it complies with one of the obligatory requirements established in the Royal Decree 928/1987 (1987).
However, it needs to be mentioned the fact that during the elaboration of this field work it was found garments which lacked an inside label. This is a tendency in the small businesses of the center of the city through which they wish to remove the identification of the distributor. According to the sales assistants who were asked about this, in this way they avoid the consumer knowing the distributor and being able to carry out a direct online purchase. This causes, as well as the non-compliance with the current regulation, a total lack of consumer knowledge about the product which they are acquiring. This is because if the garment does not have an inside label it lacks the information about the maker and distributors, and the pictograms of preservation. The main consequence which derives from this is the consumer’s defenselessness, as well as the clear lack of supervision of these products and the need for an organism which ensures that this does not happen and provides this sector of the market with more security.
In Spain the current regulation is the Royal Decree 928/1987 (1987) which specifies the concept of the textile product, the textile denominations, composition and tolerance, the label’s obligatory and non-obligatory content, the rules of attaching it and exemptions of the compliance with all that has been mentioned. All this information should theoretically be of great usefulness for the consumer but carrying out this study was noted that there is a total ignorance concerning it. This means that all the information that the label contains has become too technical and is not very practical for users.
Within this section we must also include the guidelines existing regarding the labelling of preservation and the made in label. The former is aimed at facilitating the care of the garment, so that its lifespan is prolonged. The latter gives consumers information about where the product that they are acquiring is from.
With respect to the application and compliance with everything that is established by the regulation mentioned in the previous section, there does seem to exist supervision of the content of the label and, therefore, it has been found many of them that do not comply with the current regulation or apply anything established on it. The main consequence of this control not existing is that the producer can freely modify and include what is on it. This brings about insecurity for the users as they cannot take advantage of the label to justify their shopping decisions.
As a way of providing the sector with greater security there are diverse organisms and certificates which authenticate the content on the label and fight to correct and to end inequalities, and the problem surrounding a sector which is very relevant both for society and for the Spanish economy. Most of these organisms address sustainable development and consumption awareness, contributing an improvement of the products’ image. However, comparing this with the food sector, the latter has identity certificates, firms which assess these certificates and that review them periodically.
Our findings have some important implications for shops managers aiming to build strong, lasting relationships with their customers. First, it is recommended the development in the textile sector of a seal guaranteeing responsible consumption. The textile sector needs to develop a market oriented approach in order to show that business success is linked to a more transparent way of doing business. As a consequence, governments shouls encourage eco-labelling initiatives. Second, would be useful to create an organization which upholds the compliance of the current regulation and assures the veracity of what is contained on the label. A guarantor with international competition, vertical integration in the textile sector is highly complex and the value chain of each product can cross various countries until the sales point is reached, as with more frequence, textile companies present higher export levels and they penetrate into foreign market and that is why it is vital the knowledge of labelling in each territory. Third, companies should invest more time and resources in achieving a more complete universal labeling. Consumers have nowadays a greater feeling of the responsibility for the sustainability of textiles, as a result they demand for ethical and sustainable textiles. It is becoming more common a profile of consumer with interest in having more information: What is it made of, if the dyes that have been used are natural, their origin or their traceability. We think that it is information that the employer cannot despise. This, in addition to improving the image of the company, it would strengthen customer loyalty and trust. Fourth, this work shows the need for the management of the establishments of the textile sector to be involved through a development of Social Corporate Responsibility (CSR) policies. These grant greater transparency in the traceability of each garment. Likewise, this can be an attractive factor for those consumers who give value to and award firms which have this profile. Besides, managers must be conscious that this orientation will help them to consolidate and promote business internationalization.
Notwithstanding, the study has three main limitations. On the one hand, the work is purely illustrative: it is focused on giving clear and visual information to the competent authorities of a current problem which is increasingly growing. On the other hand, a restricted number of firms analyzed of different sizes has been employed—from large multinational brands to neighborhood shops. A comparative analysis carried out with the situation found in other cities and countries could raise this figure and would be future steps implementing the article.
The city of Córdoba has very quickly gained international recognition thanks to the success of the designer Palomo Spain.
Royal Decree 928/1987 (1987), of June 5th, related to labelling of the composition of textile products. Official Spanish Gazette (BOE) no. 170, Spain, 17 July 1987. Art. 6.
Anyone interested in the use of this case can communicate directly with the authors to acquire the electronic materials of the labels analyzed.
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