Good material

Textile labs test fabric and leather goods for flammability and chemical residues

Zippers: An employee of TÜV SÜD’s lab in Dhaka determines the tearing strength of textile fabrics.
Photo: TÜV SÜD

Chemical solutions: At TÜV SÜD’s lab, a technician uses various chemical solutions to analyze tiny pieces of fabric.
Photo: TÜV SÜD

The colors of textile testing: Test tubes in the laboratory.
Photo: TÜV SÜD

Everything in a single wash cycle: The inspector puts textile samples through the spin cycle in a special washing machine. He wears a breathing mask to protect himself from chemical vapors.
Photo: TÜV SÜD

Hanging by a thread: TÜV SÜD lab technicians test every fiber and textile pattern.
Photo: TÜV SÜD

High-tech for the fashion industry: analysis equipment in the lab in Dhaka.
Photo: TÜV SÜD

If the chemistry is right: Two TÜV SÜD experts start the chemical analysis on textile samples.
Photo: TÜV SÜD

Test results: The experts keep meticulous records on every sampling – it’s printed T-shirts here.
Photo: TÜV SÜD

The fast-paced product cycles in the fashion industry place clothing and shoe manufacturers under considerable pressure. The quality often suffers as a result. TÜV SÜD test centers help them deliver clean products that have been optimally processed.

Abdul Mubin has traveled north to Dhaladia, 90 minutes away from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. At the Dird Composite Textiles Ltd. textile factory, the TÜV SÜD inspector will be examining a large order: 12,484 eggplant-colored pairs of sweatpants in every size. With an order of this magnitude, more than 300 articles will be randomly selected – a reliable sampling.

Abdul Mubin is one of 50 inspectors to complete around 45 product inspections in Bangladesh every day – like the batch in the Dhaladia factory. He works for importers and retail chains in Europe and the USA. TÜV SÜD offers them a variety of testing plans, all of which are based on internationally recognized norms. “In the case of the sweatpants, the retailer decided to have the product visually inspected, but not functionally,” explains country manager Ezhilan Neelan. The test reports that TÜV SÜD issues in conclusion specifically state what was inspected.

Mubin examines the 300 samples for quality and haptic aspects, clean seams, correct color, and fabric defects. Most of the sweatpants are acceptable. Mubin notes down 12 minor flaws, but no serious or critical defects. “Minor” means that the sales value is not impacted. “Serious” would mean that the product is unsellable. The clothing retailer that hired TÜV SÜD to perform the inspection later rejected the sweatpants.

The textile, clothing, and shoe industry is facing major challenges around the world. Thanks to globalization, production and sales are often located thousands of kilometers apart. How should a European or American fashion chain confirm whether the different suppliers in Turkey, India, Bangladesh, or Vietnam are supplying what was agreed upon? And that the clothing items are also safe? Companies like TÜV SÜD can do just that by providing their services on site – and therefore play a considerable role ensuring that the global commodity market functions at all.

Thanks to globalization, production and sales are often located thousands of kilometers apart.

The cycles in the fashion industry are short, and the competition tough. As a result, speed, price, and quality are key competitive factors. To make certain that the latter does not fall short, many retailers place their trust in companies like TÜV SÜD – whether with visual inspections like the eggplant-colored sweatpants or far more extensive analyses. For that reason, TÜV SÜD operates a network of laboratories in the world’s textile production centers – from Bangladesh to India, Vietnam to China – to analyze clothing with great precision. A fabric and leather lab was opened in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 2014, with colleagues in Asia supplying the expertise.

In TÜV SÜD labs, tests are performed according to uniform global standards to ensure that textiles and shoes do not contain contaminants; that zippers, buttons, pockets, and appliqués are integrated as ordered; and that fabrics were made of the exact materials that were agreed upon. In addition to lab testing, TÜV SÜD’s services for textile and leather products include audits and preshipment inspections. In the Dhaladia lab, Abdul Mudin gives the 12,484 pairs of sweatpants a “pass.” The product can be transported overnight to the Port of Chittagong and loaded on to an export ship.

But what happens if the test result is a “fail” because the product has too many defects? “Then,” says Mubin’s boss, Ezhilan Neelan, “the retailer receives the report and decides whether the product should be reinspected or accepted as is. If the product cannot be shipped, the textile manufacturer must pay the higher cost for airfreight shipping.” But it rarely gets to that point. Manufacturers pay attention to proper quality themselves – TÜV SÜD’s inspections are having an impact.