Natural Clothing Labels
Our labels are handmade of 100% cotton from deadstock weaves and printed using heat sublimation or laser printing, without any polyester, synthetic inks, or industrial labor. Some may feel that clothing labels are too small to spend significant effort on making ethically, but TUNIQ has always been about building a fully moral supply chain from the ground up and modeling the world we want to see. No detail is too small when we remember that every action will be seen by the Unseen and every mustard seed of weight will be accounted for.
We went through a long and difficult journey to find a solution we were happy with for our natural, ethically-made labels. Most clothing labels in the world are made of synthetic fibers, i.e. plastic. Even when brands say their labels are recycled plastic, this is a form of greenwashing, as recycling polyester reintroduces micro-plastics into the environment every time you wash that garment or textile. In addition, at its base it is a non-biodegradable material that pollutes our water and earth, likely had to be bleached & dyed yet again, produces polyester fibers in the air of workers, and is likely formed of a blend of virgin and recycles polyester regardless.
At first, we wondered if we needed clothing labels at all. It was our initial preference to let garments speak for themselves without needing to applying a logo and marketing to each item. However, we discovered that legal requirements prescribe labeling with material and country-of-origin, and most customers insisted on labels for care instructions and composition.
Our next step was to do research on the production of clothing labels. We discovered that some companies internationally do produce custom clothing-labels on organic cotton, however, as we are based in Tunisia, we do not have any import rights to international goods. Additionally, these items had very high minimum order quantities and the costs were prohibitive for us as a small business.
So we sought and found deadstock 100% cotton weaves. Many weaves were 95-98% cotton, but we applied the fiber test and rejected any mixed compositions. We insisted on deadstock cotton, which is fabric left over from large brands manufacturing runs, because it repurposes waste rather than creating new demand.
The next question was how to cut and embroider these cotton fabrics to create our labels. Our very first attempts, while we continued to research solutions, were actually plant-dyed and handwritten by pen! This was a fun but obviously impractical solution.
Next, we searched far and wide for someone who could embroider our labels. Hand-embroidery turned out to be far too-expensive and time-consuming for something as small as clothing labels (upwards of $10 per label), particularly with how much information was required for each label.
We then turned to machine-embroidery with independent seamstresses and tailors, however, every one we visited could only embroidery our cotton fabric with polyester thread, defeating all our hard work to avoid all synthetic materials in our garment.
Finally, we found a small scale printer who believed in our values and worked with us to find solutions. After many long conversations, the epiphanies came, why not try heat printing! Many failed attempts, cost, and weeks into the process, we have our current clothing labels which are laser printed and/or heat embossed using sublimation onto our garments which uses no toxic dyes, plastic printing, or synthetic chemicals.
We are also now experimenting with hand-embossing our labels onto veg-tanned un-dyed leather scraps by hand. We may introduce this method into some of our designs soon.
At present, our cotton labels are made from deadstock cotton. As such, we cannot trace the origins of this cotton. In the future, we hope to produce labels from 100% organic cotton as we continue our search for traditional organic cotton farmers at small-scale and without any exploitative labor.