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Made in Britain

November 14, 2014

Why is a Quality Label Important?

By: Peter Gregory

Dashes Graphic

When you’re setting out your fashion startup’s labelling strategy, you always have to think about the quality of your labels! 

We’ve been in the labels business for decades. Over the years, we’ve learned that it doesn’t matter whether you’re labelling a side seam, inside neck or outside pocket; if you aren’t attaching something that has been made to the highest possible standard, you’re letting your business down. 

In this article, we’ll deep-dive into the whole concept of ‘Quality Labels’. We’ll share some of the solid business reasons why quality labels are important, and show you what to look out for when you’re ordering your own labels. 

First off, here’s what we mean by ‘Quality Label’. 

In our minds, a quality label is a label that is really well made. It should be something that’s well-woven, sharp and vivid. 

That’s not the only meaning of the phrase, however. ‘Quality Label’ can also refer to the standards or accreditations met/held by a particular product. For instance, in the EU, Parmesan and Champagne must bear the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) stickers if they want to be considered ‘the real deal’. The same goes for Fairtrade Coffee and Organic Cotton (see Footnote 1). 

We’re label makers, so when we say ‘Quality Label’ we’re talking about a really good physical label — not an accreditation or badge. Having said that, the right accreditations can make a big difference to your business. If you’d like to learn more about the positive impact of getting your goods accredited, a helpful starting point is our Made in Britain label guide.

Why is a Quality Label so Important?

A high quality label has the power to grow your business and build your brand. In the world of fashion and apparel, label quality can be the difference between getting a few extra seconds consideration and being tossed back on the rail or shelf. 

A quality label passively passively promotes your products and helps consumers distinguish between goods (customers will often look for a label they know and recognise), but in the end it goes beyond simple ‘advertising space’. 

With a woven label, a high quality one literally feels better than a poor quality one — consumers can run their fingertips over a label and get an immediate tactile impression of the quality of the garment. 

What a Quality Label Should Do:

A good quality label should always do these five main things:

  • Attract attention. Labels should stop the customer in their tracks and capture their attention
  • Create a great first impression. First impressions count. A label is likely to be the first thing a customer sees. It’s usually the first thing they look for when they’re seriously considering buying a garment. 
  • Provide product information. Product information, arranged well, can help the customer to get more out of their garment and even impact their decision to purchase. The label has to last the lifespan of the garment so that the consumer always has vital product information at their fingertips.
  • Help the supply chain. A label will generally include product codes that make it easy for everyone in the supply chain, from distributors to retailers to online shoppers, to buy or sell your goods. A well-organised multilingual label also helps you to sell to more than one geographic territory, in more than one language.
  • Meet legal requirements. Last but not least, labels should help keep your goods compliant with the law. If your product is required by law to carry certain warnings or information, that information should be on a permanent, indelible label.

These are the five minimum tasks that your label should fulfil. The problem with cheap labels is that they’re not always up to these five jobs.

The Problem with Poor Quality Labels

Inexperienced designers often see labels as an administrative ‘tax’. They either forget about the label until the last minute (see footnote 2), or they see labels as a perfect place to cut costs and improve their margins. 

The problem with cheap labels is that they don’t do what a label should do: 

  • If it’s a self-adhesive or iron-on label, the backing adhesive won’t be of a high enough standard for clothing and it will come off long before it’s meant to.  
  • If it’s a woven label, the edges will fray, the design will be out of alignment and the weave will often be too loose or uneven. 
  • If the manufacturer is penny-pinching on threads and inks, you’ll find that the colours will start off looking ‘not quite right’ and will fade quickly. 
  • If the label manufacturer is passing your order overseas, you run the risk of critical legal information being incorrect or just plain missing from the finished label. 

What looks like a saving of 5% – 10% can, in the long run, cost you double or more if the labels aren’t up to standard. 

At GB Labels, we prefer to charge a fair, cost-effective price and deliver the highest possible standard of work for our customers. If you’d like to see our handiwork up-close, just order a sample pack and see for yourself!

Where’s the evidence that a quality label can make a difference?

The cheapest option might be the best option if you’re buying printer paper or bottled water, but when it comes to something that will become a fundamental part of your finished garment, it pays to push for quality.

Consumers prefer high-quality items. This sounds obvious, and we often rationalise this preference in our own minds with phrases like ‘you buy cheap you buy twice’, but in reality, the preference for quality happens at a very basic instinctive level. 

“For a business to be truly customer – focused, it needs to ignore what people say. Instead it needs to concentrate on what people feel.”

Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy Group UK

(see footnote 3)

You may have noticed that, when you buy a luxury product like a high-end soap or an expensive gadget, it comes wrapped in a beautiful box or bag, includes added extras and just feels really extravagant and over-the-top. This is an intentional retailing technique that works well because of how our brains perceive expense in a transaction. 

There’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that humans have evolved to appreciate quality. Academics and Behavioural Economists have spent decades looking at how our brains respond to expensive and high-quality products. According to a field of study called Costly Signalling Theory, when we are presented with an item that has clearly come at a ‘higher cost’ to the person giving it to us, we’re hard-wired to respond differently to it (see footnote 4).

How can you tell if you’re dealing with a Quality Label?

We’ve discussed the five main things that a label should do, but how do you know if the labels you’ve ordered are really of a superior quality when you haven’t even started attaching them?

Here are some of the things you should look for when you receive a shipment of clothing labels:

Quality of Manufacture: There should be no stray or uneven threads, the weave should be tight and even, and there should be a high level of detail.

Quality of Adhesive: If it’s a stick-on label, the adhesives used have to be first-rate, especially in the fashion & apparel industries. The labels you attach need to survive wash after wash after wash in domestic laundry appliances. Stick or iron-on a sample label to some sample fabric and give it a wash. The latest standards of adhesive should survive the washing machine for years without any signs of peeling. 

Quality of Colours: It doesn’t matter if your label is woven or printed — the threads and inks should give you a vivid, legible, bold label that’s pleasing to the eye. Make sure the colours are exactly what you ordered. 

Quality of Service: This is an area that we take personal pride in. When a new customer approaches us in need of labels, it’s very often their first time ordering labels, and we understand that. We try to make the process as easy as possible for them, giving them lots of help and guidance at every stage of the proofing process (both digital and physical). We explain the timelines up-front and if last-minute changes are needed, we do our best to accommodate these.

Quality Labels and Branding

When people think of a brand, they think of that brand’s logo … and the most common place to put a logo, on any item of clothing, is the label. You’ve got to give your brand the best possible canvas!

Get your free guide: Branding Advice for Fashion Startups

If you’re new to the business side of fashion design, please feel free to download our Branding Guide PDF — it includes a helpful step-by-step process for developing and maintaining your own fashion brand.

That’s it! I hope this guide has helped explain just how valuable a quality label is for your brand and your business. If you have any further questions regarding branding, label design, production of labels or anything else feel free to get in touch.

Thanks for reading!


Footnote 1:

You can learn all about these Quality Standards at the links below…

The EU’s label of origin schemes are explained at https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/food-safety-and-quality/certification/quality-labels/quality-schemes-explained_en 

Find out more about the Fairtrade Foundation and the Fairtrade coffee standard at https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/buying-fairtrade/coffee/

The Soil Association’s Organic standard is explained at https://www.soilassociation.org/certification/fashion-textiles/types-of-certification/ 

Footnote 2:

Every year, without fail, our phones ring with urgent requests from new fashion startups who have left their labels to the last minute and now need labels ASAP. These designers have usually done everything they need to do to launch a clothing business: they’ve designed and manufactured gorgeous garments, they’ve set up bank accounts and secured exhibition space … but they haven’t prioritised the design and manufacture of their clothing labels. If this is you, I promise we’ll do everything we can to look after you, but it’s possible we might not be able to meet your timelines. Our typical turnaround time for woven labels is 10-14 days, and our production looms run on a strict ‘first in first out’ queueing system. All we can do is promise to keep you updated throughout the process and work as fast as we can for you.  Learn more about how our label manufacturing process works at the link below: https://www.gblabels.co.uk/different-types-of-label-folds-explained/#cheapest-fastest-label-fold

Footnote 3:

The Rory Sutherland quote was taken from page 45 of his book “Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense”, available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alchemy-Surprising-Power-Ideas-Sense/dp/0753556510 

Footnote 4:

There’s a really interesting article about the evolution of costly signalling at the link below — it’s quite a heavy academic read, but it’s well worth it:


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