Care Label Projec

The Care Label Project: Designers Join The Fight Against Fast Fashion

Emerging designers join forces to change the way we care for our clothes, and fight the continuous acceleration of the fashion industry

Today, 90% of all clothing is discarded far earlier than necessary, with as much as 70% due to preventable damage like fading, shrinkage or misshaping. The solution? Better clothing care.

In a survey conducted by AEG in 2016, more than half of consumers stated that they rely on care labels in order to feel confident when doing their laundry. However, care labels are only suggestions by the respective clothing brands, and by now it is established within the fashion industry to understate a fabric’s durability to avoid upsetting customers, who could accidently ruin their clothes due to the care label’s suggestions. In the same survey, one third of consumers stated that they find care labels confusing.

Designers themselves lack the proper time and infrastructure to undertake their own laundry testing. The result is overusing instructions such as ‘Dry Clean Only’ and ‘Wash at 40º’ – both unnecessarily harsh and environmentally damaging ways to clean clothing. Furthermore, one in three people even avoid purchasing garments labelled 'Dry Clean Only' (Source: Consumer Laundry Habits, Ipsos MORI 2016), which means a loss in sales for both retailers and brands. Especially for emerging designers the lack in understanding of fabric care can have long-term financial impacts to their businesses.  

AEG and NJAL have selected four emerging designers and interviewed them about their implementation of sustainable and innovative fabric care technology in their garments.

Han Ates
Having spent his adult life working in fashion and seeing the industry work to shorter cycles each year, Han Ates decided it was time to reboot his ways of working. Blackhorse Lane Ateliers’ vision is to create a sustainable, ethical and transparent force within fashion. Launched in April 2016, they were the first denim factory in 40 years to begin manufacturing in London, embracing the ideology ‘think global, act local’.

“There is an incredible amount of jeans factories and brands around the world. However consumers are not connected with the actual producers and I thought it needed a revolution, an honest approach to jeans” says Ates.

To make jeans last the entire life you need to know how to care for them. “If you wash your garments and jeans less, in lower temperatures, you will prolong the lifetime of your jeans. That way you will spend less money and you will use less resources of the world.”

Tim Labenda
“He showcases the versatility of the fibre with luxurious hand-crafted details” read the final jury motivation, when Tim Labenda was awarded the Woolmark Prize Europe 2016. The fibre referred to is of course wool, a material Tim fell in love with as a teenager, and has since been the focus of all his collections. The Woolmark Prize marks another significant step upwards in the fast moving career of this Berlin-based wool virtuoso.

It was 2013 when Tim’s first womenswear collection caught the eye of Christiane Arp, chief editor of German Vogue, who invited him to show at the Vogue Salon during Berlin Fashion Week. Since then his collections and designs have been frequently praised by media and retailers globally.

Tim’s designs incorporate classic masculine fashion attributes like perfect fit and tailoring, but with a distinct feminine style, which speak to the intellectual, independent and authentic woman. Using sustainable yet extraordinary fabrics he is a contributing factor to the global trend of wool becoming recognised as a material for the future, a fabric he himself refers to as “the most relevant fabric of them all”.

“You have these new technologies where you can tumble dry wool in a very easy way and you don’t have to fear wool anymore. I think you can tumble dry everything, if it’s just the right program.”

Clara Martin
Clara Martin’s mother worked as a designer and her grandmother in the textile industry, so clothing and creativity have always been a large part of her life. However, they both strongly objected to Clara’s decision to move into the same industry, as they had seen things deteriorate over the course of their working lives. They had seen companies moving from quality garments to fast fads and cheap materials.

She chose not to listen to that advice though, as going her own way has been the guiding star in both Clara’s life and the garments she makes. Fusing traditional tailoring techniques with innovative shapes, patterns and textures, Clara aims to push boundaries within the industry. By moving away from conformed menswear with similar color hues and pallets, she has created a more open wardrobe where men have just as many options as women. Her ultimate goal is for men to feel liberated enough to one day skip the pin stripe suit and, instead, embrace colour and fun in everyday life.

“I think sometimes manufacturers use too much precaution with care labels, so they can be unclear in the fact that they give you one way of washing but not all ways. You can put a piece of knitwear on a gentle cycle instead of only doing hand washing.

Doriane Van Overeem
Don’t Tell Me To Calm Down is the name of Doriane van Overeem’s latest Fall/Winter collection, a statement that captures the essence of this fury driven Belgian designer, who aims to challenge the status quo in the fashion industry. A graduate of La Cambre Modes, Doriane made her way through the studios of Louise Gray and Meadham Kirchhoff before exhibiting her first collection in 2014 at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, which was voted “Best Look of the Fall” by Vogue Paris.

Committed to offering hyper-local and Belgian production, in contrast to the mass consumption and fast fashion she disfavours, her aim is to make consumers buy less and buy better. Doriane does this by balancing commerce and creativity, creating the reach needed to make a change.

“Suppliers are putting Dry Clean Only on the label because they don’t want to take any responsibility if the garment is ruined. But most of the time when it says Dry Clean Only, you could actually just wash it at a lower temperature in a modern washing machine. If you put your garments in a cold and gentle cycle, like I do for my own cashmere knits, it all washes fine.”

AEG’s ambition is to add another 2,000 care labels to the 18,200 already sewn into the seams of garments from the project’s designer collections.

“By collaborating with both manufacturers and the fashion industry, we create a much needed bridge of knowledge between our industries to take responsibility from the first step of producing a garment, to caring for it and prolonging its life.” - Ian Banes, Senior Vice President, Laundry at AEG

Designer collaborations: The following designers are part of the Care Label Project:

David Catalán, Porto
Doriane Van Overeem, Brussels
Clara Martin, London
Jonathan Christopher Homme, Rotterdam
Marit Ilison, Tallinn
Noèlia Aranda, Barcelona 
O! Waste, Copenhagen 
Stine Ladefoged, Copenhagen 
StudioWinkler, Berlin
Tim Labenda, Berlin

Download the AEG Care Label Lookbook here.