How to Read Clothing Labels

January 19, 2015

Hello hello, welcome to the third post of The Vegan Wardrobe Challenge everyone! I’m very glad you stayed with us until now. We have spent the first two posts of this series to identify the bad guys in our wardrobe. We’ve also seen some alternatives to the main cruelty ridden materials like leather, fur, wool, down and silk. If you haven’t read the first two posts I highly suggest you do it.

Did you know that you can now get Your Cruelty-Free Wardrobe ebook for free upon subscribing in the box below?  This book is for you if you’re a new vegan, a vegetarian, an animalist, a conscious consumer or someone who believes we can live by doing the less harm possible. You will learn to know your materials, where to shop for a cruelty-free wardrobe, who to go to for sustainable inspiration and how to do all this without being overwhelmed or end up with one pair of shoes because you had to give them all away. Your Cruelty-Free Wardrobe can help you with veganizing your wardrobe the easy way: get it now in the box at the bottom of this post.



Labels: the Elephant in the Room

Let’s tell the truth, no one ever reads labels. When was the last time you checked a label on something you were about to buy? You probably did it because that dress was so expensive and you wanted to know why (and you were probably disappointed because the label said 100% acrylic. Yes, that happens too!)
Who are those people who always check the labels? I’ll tell you: fashion students, vegans, hippies and allergic people.
Yes, this is the sad truth. You only check labels if you’re looking out for something, or if you know you’re going to be asked how to tell one fabric from another at your final exams.
My mom never checks labels, my sister never does either. I’ve never even asked my auntie but I bet she doesn’t either.
Labels are the big pink elephant in the room: they are there for all to see, but everybody ignores them. And this is terrible because labels can tell us everything (well, almost everything) about the product we are spending our money on.

How to Identify Materials on Labels


the-vegan-wardrobe-challenge-shoes-labelYou’ll need this one whenever you are going to buy new shoes. Shoes must have the materials printed somewhere, whether it’s inside the shoe or on a sticker on the outer sole, you must have the materials somewhere. If you can’t find the label anywhere on the shoe, check the box.
How to check if a shoe is vegan? The diamond shape is your friend: whether is a small bold diamond or a big one, it means that it’s “Other materials” which is polyurethane or plastic material.
Whenever you see the “emblem-like” symbol, that means leather. Even if it’s black with a small diamond inside, it’s still leather (coated leather).
The symbol with small traits and dots is safe because it means “Textile.” (Well, if your shoe looks like it’s made out of wool of silk, you might want to check the box. Or the price: it will probably be expensive.)

If you can’t find the symbols anywhere, smell your shoe. Leather has a very distinctive smell, and so does plastic. If you can see glue on your shoe, it’s probably plastic. I’m an advocate for learning to know your materials, it can be a very useful tool when you’re a sustainable and cruelty-free consumer!

What if you are in doubt about a jacket? You can find the label in the neck area or on the side (on the inside of course). The label will usually state if the garment has leather parts or if it’s made from leather. Beware of the “genuine” word. If you can see it somewhere, it’s probably real leather.


Ok, this is tricky. The word “fur” is unlikely to be stated in labels. They usually just refer to the fur with the animal it came from. It’s usually very easy to tell fake fur from real fur anyway because if it’s fake fur, it will say acrylic or polyester somewhere on the label.
You’ll probably be able to tell a real fur coat from a fake fur coat, but when it comes to smaller parts like trims and hoods it can be harder to tell the difference. And you need to read through the label very carefully. Look out for labels in felt because this material could be made using fur and not wool.
Let’s see some of the names you could find on a real fur coat: beaver, mink, fox, musquash, muskrat, sable, raccoon, marten, pine marten, stoat, ermine, weasle, mole, rabbit, coney, rex, lapin, seal, astrakhan, Persian lamb, chinchilla.
Are you astonished at the number of animals that could be killed for their fur? I totally am.


Animal derived materials are often considered luxury items so you can be pretty sure they will state it in the label. They will write it in big black capital letters! If an item it’s 100% silk it will say that in the label, probably along a “Dry clean only” warning.
With silk you need to be careful to blends. Read the label thoroughly because it could be say 40% acrylic, 40% cotton, 20% silk. Silk could come last but it would still be there. So read the label and read every sheet of the label (sometimes they look like fu**ing booklets!)



Always check the label when you’re buying a quilted jacket, a duvet or anything that looks puffy and soft. Read it carefully because you could read polyester as the outer fabric of quilted jacket is often polyester but the filling could be down. So always read the labels thoroughly and don’t be fooled!
Feathers are usually pointed out as goose down or waterfowl down.
If you read Downasan or Downafresh on the label, it means that:

DOWNAFRESH / DAUNASAN is a gurantee that the filling of down and feather complies with the most strict hygenic requirements, establised according to the European standard EN 12935. Furthermore, the filling filling material is washed with washing detergents non harmful to nature and additionally tested by an impartial test institute to ensure the product does not contain substances harmful to the environment. Downafresh is a gurantee that the manufacturer has an audited traceability system of the down filling material and that this complies with all laws and regulations about animal welfare and etics. (Source)

I would not be fooled by this statement. Remember that a bird was either killed for its feather or plucked alive, so however you put down filling, it’s a cruel material.


the-vegan-wardrobe-challenge-wool-labelLong time no see, wool! Well not really, we talked about wool in the previous post of The Vegan Wardrobe Challenge. Now that you know the cruelty behind the wool industry, learn how to recognize wool symbols on labels.
This symbol you see on your left is the pure wool symbol. Wool blends have a very similar symbol: the shape is the same, but it’s solid black or solid white.
My recommendations are the same as silk’s. Always check the label carefully because wool is easily blended with other materials like polyester.
Wool can also be stated on the label with the name of the animal it came from. These are some of the names to look out for: alpaca, angora, merino, vicugna, cashmere, chiengora, llama, mohair, lopi, Tibetan fur.



Check out all the posts in this series:

  1. Creating a Cruelty-Free Wardrobe (5/01/2015)
  2. Unexpected Cruelty in your Wardrobe (12/01/2015)
  3. How to Read Clothing Labels (19/01/2015)
  4. Top 10 Cruelty-Free Fashion Brands (26/01/2015)
  5. Recycled and Second-Hand: Your Sustainable and Compassionate Wardrobe (02/02/2015)
  6. Top 10 Cruelty-Free Fashion Blogs (09/02/2015)
  7. Cruelty-Free and Sustainable Fashion: It’s Possible! (16/02/2015)
  8. Your Cruelty-Free Wardrobe – Become Fashion ‘Conscious’ With This Comprehensive Guide (17/03/2015)


Will you take a few easy steps to make your wardrobe a compassionate place? Will you be kind to the animals and to the Earth? It’s a small decision, but it makes a world of difference.



About the Author


Hey, it's Elisa, founder of I'm a social media strategist & consultant by day and blogger by night (honing my multitasking skills since 2006 ;). I'm an atypical Italian, freedom lifestyle advocate and modern spirituality enthusiast. Feel like we could get along? Join me just above this box or get in touch with me on Facebook or Twitter.

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Mariana Leung (@MarianaByDesign)

Great post! It’s challenging enough to find sustainable clothing, great to find a guide to navigate the labels too


    You’re right Mariana! It’s quite hard but we can change that. It just take a little bit of effort and a little less of compulsive shopping to change the fashion industry. Having the tools to understand what we’re actually buying gives us power. The power that we are entitled to have as consumers. Let’s take our power back ;D

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