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After all the hard work and money you put into producing a collection, the last thing you want is for it to get seized by customs or the shipment gets lost. This can happen if your labelling is not set up correctly. To ace this essential task for completing an order, the ultimate guide is now available with our expert Fredrik Gronkvist, Co-founder of chinaimportal.com and asiapropertyhq.com.
If customs authorities at the border check the incoming shipment and it appears to be incorrectly labelled, there is a good chance they may seize the goods. Though customs only has the resources to check a few shipments, other market surveillance authorities may catch up with you weeks or even months later.
Labelling requirements are mandatory: if you import or manufacture apparel without the necessary information and graphics, your product is illegal and cannot be placed on the market.
Retailers and market platforms like Amazon are not exempt from these checks either. As a designer or importer, it is paramount that apparel labels are accurate.
1) Information need varies market to market
The information you need to provide depends on the country – here are a few examples:
The requirements are quite strict. You must use a particular type of care label symbols to sell your designs in the US.
- Country of origin (such as Made in Vietnam)
- ASTM care labels
- Fibre composition
- English as the official language
- Use care labels or written instructions
- Use the language of the target market/s
- Fibre composition (for example 98% cotton 2% spandex)
How about the rest of the world?
To find out about the labelling requirements for your target market, contact the local authorities. A good starting point is to follow this checklist to reduce the risk of missing something important:
- Is the country of origin mandatory?
- How shall I specify the fibre composition?
- Which language shall I use?
- Can I use written care instructions? If not, what kind of graphical care?
- What labels should I be using?
- Do I need to use any specific size standard?
- Do I need to include warning labels or text?
Some brands, like asos.com, make labels in all of the major European languages, including English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.
3) Multiple market labels
Labels can be made so they are compliant with the regulations of several countries at the same time.
Many brands meet both US and European Union textiles, labelling simultaneously in one label. It would only be necessary to create a label file that includes all of the information required for each country.
For instance, apparel made for the EU and the US must include the following:
Country of origin (eg, Made in Vietnam), ASTM Care Labels, English language use, the language of the (EU) target market/s & fibre composition
4) Format and additional information
Most suppliers prefer label files in .ai or .eps format. However, you can use .jpg files and be sure to also include:
- Print position
- Font file
- Label material
- Label design
You must never assume that the manufacturers know what’s required. Some factories only have an elementary understanding of labelling requirements for large overseas markets such as the US, Europe and Japan. It’s every designer’s responsibility to provide the factory with a ready-made label file, which contains all the necessary information and ensures everything is correctly presented for the target market.
5) Timing and submission of labels to the supplier
Label files are part of your tech pack. You can upload them using Techpacker and include all of the other labelling information the supplier must have. When the Tech pack is complete and the label files have been uploaded onto Techpacker, use the PDF creator feature to get everything in one file. Just remember to email the original files to the supplier as needed. On Techpacker you may also add factory team members directly to your account and share the original files with them. Another option is to use Wetransfer.
You must also confirm all applicable substance regulations, such as REACH in the EU, and California Proposition 65, in California. These regulations restrict lead, cadmium, AZO dyes and other substances found in fabrics and other components, like buttons for example.
You may also need to issue a document or product certificate. For example, textiles made of certain lightweight fabrics must be FFA compliant in the US, and the importer must also issue a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC).
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