The label for your new t-shirt line features your brand name with your logo, consisting of 5 interlocking gold and silver circles. You hate when neck labels chafe the neck, so you’ve designed a heat transfer label with just your logo for inside the back of each shirt, just below the right shoulder. The labels arrived at the factory on time, affixed exactly as you instructed, and deliveries to boutiques made on time. So you are caught off guard when a boutique owner calls to say she can’t accept shipment because the labels are wrong. You search online for “FTC Labels” and are surprised to learn there are a myriad of regulations and rules pertaining to textile labels.
If you find yourself in this predicament, we’ve developed 7 FAQs to steer you through the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) label guidelines, which can be complicated!
Keep in mind that this post is a basic primer for textile products. Many specifics regarding the country of origin and fiber content, plus additional rules for cotton, fur, wool, cashmere, and footwear are not covered here. You should review the FTC guidelines and perhaps consult with an attorney if needed to ensure full compliance. Here are some steps to get started.
1. Do I Need A Label?
If you are making clothing or apparel, the answer is yes! Easy, you can move on to Question 2.
2. What Information Should I Include?
Your label must include the following core information:
- » Country of origin
- » Fiber content
- » Identity of the company making (or importing or overseeing) the product
This information can appear together on one label or on separate labels. Labels may take any size or shape. Just remember that the information should be “legible, conspicuous, and readily accessible to the consumer,” meaning it is easy to read, notice, and obtain. Lastly, the labels should be securely attached to the product when received by the consumer.
3. How Should I List the Country Of Origin?
The country of origin must be stated on the front of the label, in English. If your product is a garment that sits on the neck, you must attach a label that discloses the country of origin on the inside center of the neck. Attach the label either midway between the shoulder seams or adjacent to another label on the inside center of the neck. The country of origin label cannot be covered or obscured by any other label.
It is okay to use standard abbreviations such as U.S.A (or spellings close to the English version) as long as the country is identifiable. Determining the country of origin can be complicated for products put together in multiple place, and there are separate guidelines governing those situations.
4. How Should I List the Fiber Content?
Fiber content may appear on the front of a label with the country of origin, or on a separate label entirely either inside or outside of the product. It may also appear on the back of a label as long as the label is attached to the product only at one end so the reverse side is accessible. All parts of the fiber content information must be in English and in uniform type or lettering.
For yarns, fabrics, clothing, and other household items, list in descending order the percentages by weight of each fiber in the product accompanied by the generic fiber name. Examples:
- » 100% Cotton
- » All Cotton
- » 90% Polyester; 10% Spandex
You should use the generic name for all FTC-recognized natural and man-made fibers. You may also use a trademarked name to identify the fiber, but only in conjunction with the generic fiber name. Example:
- » 20% Lycra® Spandex (Spandex is the generic name)
If part of the product is made from a non-fibrous material — such as plastic, glass, wood, paint, metal or leather — no need to include that on your labels. This exemption applies to zippers, buttons, beads, sequins, leather patches, painted designs, and any other parts that are not made from fiber, yarn, or fabric.
5. What Fiber Content Can I Exclude?
Fiber Content Less than 5%
Thankfully, not all fibers must be disclosed. Generally, you are required to name only the fibers that comprise 5% or more of the fiber weight of the product. You may choose to state the name and percentage of a fiber that is less than 5% of the product if the fiber provides a “functional significance” at that amount. For example, spandex added to polyester provides functional elasticity to a garment and goose down in a jacket increases functional warmth.
Otherwise, fibers that are less than 5% can be listed as “Other Fibers.” Example:
- » 90% Polyester, 6% Spandex and 4% Other Fibers
If you have multiple fibers without “functional significance” that are present in amounts of less than 5% each, then combine their weight together and list as “Other Fibers,” even if their total weight is greater than 5%. Example:
- 80% Polyester, 10% Spandex and 10% Other Fibers
Lastly, you also do not need to state the content of trim, linings (unless used for warmth), small ornamentation and threads holding the garment together. But note: if you do choose to disclose something about the fiber content of these exempt items, then you must comply with all of the fiber content rules in doing so.
6. How Should I List the Company Name?
Your label should state the identity of the company that is manufacturing, importing, marketing, distributing or overseeing the product. You have some flexibility in placement. The company name may be stated on the front or back of the same label as the country of origin or on a separate label, and inside or outside of the product.
By “company,” we mean the full legal name under which the company conducts business – in other words, the name that appears on all contracts and invoices. Strictly speaking, you can’t use a trademark, trade name, brand, label or designer name, unless that is the name under which the company legally does business.
In reality, however, brands often use unofficial trademarked names on their products – you won’t typically see “Dianne Von Furstenberg, Inc.” on the back of a DVF wrap dress. Companies get by using an Registered Identification Number (“RN”) to identify the name the company uses to conduct business and affixing the RN number on a separate label inside the garment. RNs are issued and registered by the FTC to any individual or entity inside the United States that manufactures, imports, markets, distributes or otherwise handles textile, wool or fur products.
7. Does The FTC Need To Approve My Label?
The FTC does not need to approve your label before consumers buy your product. That means, for better or worse, it’s your job to get it right. You can make sure you are on the right track with regards to content and placement by consulting with an attorney beforehand.
If you have limited resources, perhaps seek “guidance” from other established brands. Information is power, and even your competitors can assist you. Review their labels for products to similar to your own and notice how their labels identify the country of origin, fiber content (including generic names), and company identity. Also read through the FTC’s label regulations for the nitty-gritty information not included in our primer here.
THE FASHION LAW STUDIO PROVIDES LEGAL EDUCATION SUBJECT MATTER ONLY. THIS ARTICLE AND ITS CONTENTS ARE FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DO NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. THE FASHION LAW STUDIO IS NOT A LAW FIRM OR A SUBSTITUTE FOR AN ATTORNEY OR LAW FIRM. NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS CREATED HEREIN. THIS COMMUNICATION IS NOT “ATTORNEY ADVERTISING” OR A “SOLICITATION” UNDER THE NEW YORK AND CALIFORNIA RULES OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY GOVERNING ATTORNEY CONDUCT.
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