Care Label Legal Requirements in the Future
There is a growing global market for smart clothing and wearable smart devices, with research suggesting the market for smart clothing is in the beginning stages. Interactive smart clothing is likely to become mainstream in the coming years. Care labels may become obsolete if smart clothing and electronic fabrics are utilized more widely by the fashion industry.
The Global Market
- The global market for smart clothing is in the early stages of its development, with research being carried out into the applications and possible impact of smart fabrics and electronic textiles.
- The current market, which is predominately in North America and Europe, focuses on sports and fitness but is expected to expand over the coming years, growing to around $4.08 billion by 2023.
- The wearable technology industry was worth $23bn in 2018 and is expected to grow to $54bn by 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19%.
Smart Clothing and Care Labels
- Labels that only provide information about a garment's care may become a thing of the past if smart clothing becomes mainstream. Consumers are likely to see a rise in smart clothing that connects with the wearer's smart phone and provides them not only care instructions but also up-to-date information about the condition of their garment, personal health insights, social interaction capabilities and more.
- As uses for smart clothing expand, it is reasonable to expect this technology to be utilized by the fashion industry, including providing users with information on how to care for their garments. Care labels that also collect GPS, bio metrics, and environmental data are already being researched by the world's largest supplier of care labels, Avery Dennison.
- In 2017, Google and Levi collaboratively created jackets through Google's Jacquard project that used a washable battery powered Bluetooth tag to control the wearer's smart phone. Although the technology does not focus on care labels specifically, it shows the mainstream release of smart clothing that has paved the way for further development of smart clothing. Levi is currently developing smart jeans with the same washable tag, which is now half the size of the tag used in the jackets.
RFID and NFC Technology
- NFC technology is easy and cheap to use and may provide wearers with easily accessible and more detailed care information and advice directly to their smart phone. Users are able to scan a QR code, which will take them directly to up-to-date information online.
- This technology is limited in its application, unlike other smart clothing technologies that are currently being researched.
- Care labels are already changing as some manufacturers are creating care labels that communicate directly with a wearer's RFID-enabled washers, dryers, irons, presses, and dry cleaning equipment. This technology makes it easier for the wearer to access care instructions and to care for their garments effectively.
- While there does not seem to be a change in the legal requirement for care labels in the US, the format the information is presented to consumers in is more likely to change with the introduction of smart clothing.
- For smart clothing to provide users with care instructions via technology such as NFC, the clothing would require unique product identification that is legally protected from duplication.
- Patents and licensing of new technology is a concern for this growing market, with many brands already in dispute over the development of smart fabrics and textiles.
- Smart clothing poses some considerable legal implications due to the new features and technology used in its design. These include but are not limited to consumer privacy and security, and compliance with new standards that the fashion industry has previously not required to address. An example of this would be a garment that measures the wearers blood pressure or heart rate, as it would be required to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
We used scholar reports and journals, advanced searches, and media and industry reports to understand the growing market and developing smart clothing technology. Although there is little beyond NFC technology that is directly addressing care labels, many of the sources address the growing demand for smart clothing and the expected trajectory of this relatively new market. Researchers and experts seem to agree that the way care labels are currently manufactured is likely to change and adapt, but specific information regarding the use of smart clothing in care labels is not extensive among publicly available sources or is yet to be researched.
Our research initially focused on the US, however, sources demonstrated that the development of smart clothing and smart labeling is a global market with a global research base. Information about the legal future of care labels in the US do not appear to be publicly available. We attempted to find this information by conducting a detailed analysis of industry reports, including reports on conferences regarding the labeling of clothing in the US, but this information was either significantly out-of-date or unavailable.