So the aim of today is to look at that the labels of your clothes do tell you, when it comes to fibres  and more importantly all the things they don't tell you! And I'll also look at how the labelling of ethical and sustainable brands is often different, and tells you more.

I think we get used to not thinking about what actually goes into making our clothes, but if we want a more sustainable fashion future brands need to be telling us what makes up our clothes because how can we know the impact of clothing if we don't really know what's in them.

Everything from how a raw material is farmed or extracted, to how clothing is dyed, and the amount of travelling clothes do before they reach warehouses and shelved has an impact... but clothing labels don't tell us any of these things! So today I'm investigating. Check out my video to see me look at pieces in my wardrobe and ask what's in them.

Want to get involved? Find a piece of clothing, get the label out and ask the brand that made it, "What's in my clothes?" what aren't the labels telling you? Use #WhatsInMyClothes and also tag me @muccycloud so I can see your posts!

You can find more resources and download a "Whats in my clothes?" sign from Fashion Revolution here.

So, let's talk Fabric

Natural Textiles:
Non-animal textiles
Natural non-animal textiles are those that come from plants! Straight from the plant, and made into fibres, there are also synthetic plant fibres but we'll get onto in a bit.

What the label tells you: What type of material the fibre is made from, be it hemp, cotton, flax, or piña (pineapples). These are generally farmed, or are the by product of a farmed product

What the label doesn't tell you: How these crops were farmed, what impact that farming has on the local environment, what chemicals the fabric has been treated with, how the clothing was dyed, the environmental impact and water use of any of these stages, if people in the supply chain have been paid and treated fairly.

Types of non-animal natural textiless: Cotton, hemp, flax, piña, sisal, jute, wood fibres etc.

Piñatex is a trademarked brand of piña, a type of fabric made from the leaves of pineapples. What makes Piñatex is transparency. If you visit their website you can see exactly how the material is made, and read about the people that grow these pineapple leaves. Now I'm not saying the brand is perfect and we shouldn't have to rely on trademarked fabrics to know how all our clothes are made but they set an example of how things should be done better.

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Animal textiles
Animal fibre is what is says on the tin really, fibres that come from an animal (or insect, or bird) either harvested regularly/continually when the animal is alive or once after death.

What the label tells you: What type of material your garment is made from, often what type of animal that comes from.

What the label doesn't tell you: The exact type of animal it was taken from (sometimes, but not always), where these are farmed, how they're farmed, whether they're free range animals, how the fabrics are dyed and treated, the environmental impact of all these stages, if the people or animals in the supply chain have been treated fairly, and if farmers and workers are paid fairly.

Types of animal textiles: Silk, Wool, Down, sinew, fur, leather etc.
Man-Made Textiles
Semi-synthetic textiles
Semi synthetic fibres are generally fibres that's raw ingredient is something natural, like plant fibres, but that undergoes some sort of man-made treatment (generally chemical) to be made into the fibre that is then used for fabric. For this example I will be talking about plant based fibres.

What the label does tell you: The fabric's raw ingredient was some kind of plant(s)

What the label doesn't tell you: What plant it's derived from, how that plant was farmed/produced, how the material was dyed, what chemicals were used in purifying the cellulose to make the fabric, the environmental impact of any of the stages, that microfibres shed from the fabric when washed, the environmental impact of those microfibres,  whether the people in these supply chains are treated and paid fairly.

Though it's a plant fibre, viscose is actually more polluting as a microfibre in the ocean than any plastic fibre, a 2015 study found it made up 56.9% of deep ocean microfibres and another study in 2013 that microfibres from viscose made up 57.8% of detected particles injected by certain fish, with yet another study finding 54% of fibres in ice cores came were viscose. These ratios may have changed in the last 5 years but it's still a significant pollutant. Though we don't actually know what effect these fibres,  along with plastic microfibres, have on the ocean, it's inhabitants, and us!

Types of semi synthetic textiles: Viscose, rayon,  modal, lyocell, bamboo fibre, etc, etc.

Tencel is a trademarked type of viscose, made from wood. What sets Tencel apart is that if you go onto their website they have information about every stage of their manufacturing process, as well as sustainability reports. When you buy an item made of Tencel you know what's gone into making that because the company is very transparent about their process.

Fully Synthetic textiles
Synthetic fibres are generally those made of petroleum: plastics. Anything from acrylic to polyester. These are currently environmentalist enemy number 1 due to the pollution of microplastic in the oceans, much of which comes from our clothes when we wash them.

What the label does tell you: These fabrics are made from a synthetic material, generally

What the label doesn't tell you: Where the raw materials were extracted from, how the material is processed and dyed, the effects of these on the environment, that these clothes shed microfibres, how anyone in the supply chain is treated or paid

Making fibres out of plastic accounts for 342 million barrels of oil a year, for clothes!

Types of synthetic fibre: acrylic, elastine, polyester, pvc etc.

Made in...
Another piece you will see on the labels of your clothing is "where they were made", but this often only tells one part of the story. It only tells you where that piece of clothing was sewn together. One garment can be going to 10 different countries from start to finish, taking up countless air or sea miles, and going through the hands of hundreds of people before it reaches warehouses ready to be sold.

Now this would be a lot of information to put on one small label, but most brands don't have this information available anywhere and consumers remain blissfully ignorant, unaware of the real impact that the clothing they're buying is having on people and the environment.

How Sustainable Brands Differ:
So this isn't a universal truth, but looking at labels of clothes I own from sustaiable and ethical brands their labels tended to have more information on them. Generally they were made of things like "organic cotton" or "Tencel" which told you more about the materials than a standard label and they often stated they were sustainably or ethically made. Plus when you go onto the website of a lot of sustainable brands they will tell you exactly where their textiles come from, where they were grown, how they're made and also information on how their clothes are dyed and put together.

This transparency and knowledge of every aspect of their supply chain is what sets them apart. Labels don't tell you a lot about clothing, other than what material makes it up, but we should be able to find out more about our clothing than just what textile it's made from and where it was sewn together.

The solution doesn't''t have to be trademarked fabrics like the ones I've talked about either, though this is one way of ensuring sustainable materials,  if brands had an obligation to trace back and publish information about every step of their supply chain then we wouldn't have to rely on trademarked fabrics for transparency.

So how to we fix this? Well it's the same solution as always, by demanding brands do better and are more transparent about their supply chains.

Want to get involved? Find a piece of clothing, get the label out and ask the brand that made it, "What's in my clothes?" what aren't the labels telling you? Use #WhatsInMyClothes and also tag me @muccycloud so I can see your posts!

More from Fashion Revolution Week:
Monday: Why Do we Need a Fashion Revolution?
Tuesday: Who Made my Clothes?
Wednesday: The Ultimate Guide to Fixing Up Your Clothes
Thursday: Loved Clothes Last: A Clothing Love Story
Friday: How to Be a Climate Activist
Saturday: "What's in my Clothes?"
Sunday: What do we want from the future of fashion?