Most of us think about clothing labels only when they’re tickling our necks. But a new constellation of “conscious clothing” tags — insignia identifying clothes that are organic, processed without toxic chemicals or produced in accordance with fair-trade practices — deserve our attention. “It’s helpful to know where your clothes come from and who makes them,” says Natalia Allen, a pioneer in sustainable-clothing design. “Informed shoppers are much more likely to make wise decisions and support businesses that share their values.” To help you become the most responsible consumer you can be, here are some of the socially conscious and environmentally friendly labels to look for when shopping. (For more clothes-shopping advice, see “Dressed to Lose.”)
Certified Organic Guarantees that a garment’s raw materials were grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Dyes and finishes, however, may still contain toxic chemicals.
GOTS Organic The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) ensures that clothing is at least 70 percent organic, with no toxic dyes or finishes. In addition, processors must follow strict waste-management and labor standards.
SA8000 Requires that factories and farms meet standards for a decent workplace outlined by Social Accountability International. The organization monitors health and safety conditions, working hours, and child-labor issues.
Private-Label Union Made Ensures that garment workers are permitted to form unions that advocate for fair working conditions and wages.