Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Deadstock fabric has become increasingly popular as just one solution to the fashion garment industry as a way to make garments more sustainable. The idea behind using deadstock fabric is that, if this fabric is not used then it will be sent to landfill. Therefore, by using deadstock it is more eco-friendly. In the fashion industry around 15% of fabric intended for garments ends up on the floor and goes to waste. This wastage is and has been tolerated within the industry for decades.
Does deadstock fabric counteract this large wastage or is it just another “solution” which ignores the source of the problem?
This article contains the following:
What is Deadstock Fabric?
The word deadstock can be used to convey multiple meanings and results in people becoming confused about what they are actually buying. True deadstock are fabrics which have been left over after a designer has finished sampling or producing their collection. Other words often used under the umbrella of “deadstock” are overstock, available stock, surplus and jobber fabric. However, these are not true deadstock fabric and cover all excess fabric produced by a manufacturer or mill.
True deadstock are fabrics which have been left over after a designer has finished sampling or producing their collection
What is Overstock/Available Stock/Surplus/Jobber Fabric?
Fabric that a factory deliberately overproduces because they know that it will eventually sell. Fabrics, for example, tend to include plain knit jersey fabric as there will always be a market for t-shirt fabric. This is not true deadstock fabric and is deliberately produced by mills to save money.
Manufacturing a fabric uses a variety of complex machines and requires a lot of manpower. Mills therefore benefit by overproducing a fabric which they can sell at a discounted “deadstock” price rather than shutting down machines, cleaning machines, setting them up for the next fabric and running the next fabric. When mills produce a fabric, they take into account selling fabric at a discounted rate and never intend to send fabric to landfill.
This is sold through either the manufacturer or, if they cannot sell the fabric, they pass it onto a fabric jobber. Jobbers tend to buy all surplus material from the manufacturer at a discounted price then mark it up and sell it on for a higher price tag. Mood is example of a jobber and sells a variety of fabrics including to home sewists. Jobbers have existed within the fashion industry for a long time and are not a way to make the fashion industry more eco-friendly they are simply a middleman for the mills to make more money. This does not stop fabric from going to landfill as this was never the intend use for the surplus amount of fabric produced by mills.
Why Else Might There be Excess Fabric?
Excess fabric can exist for many reasons:
Discontinued production of a garment resulting in a large quantity of leftover fabric.
Overproduction of a specific textiles by a mill which can no longer be sold.
Overestimation of fabric requirements by fashion houses.
Over buying fabric to reduce cost of end garment.
Damages to fabric making it unusable for large fashion houses.
Fabric rejected by a fashion house due to other reasons such as chemical test failure.
The Pros of True Deadstock Fabric
Exclusivity. Once the fabric has been used then it is gone. This allows for one of a kind items.
Uses fabric that otherwise may have sat in the cupboard at a fashion house.
Prevents the fabric from going to landfill. Some designers may want to send their leftover fabric to landfill to protect the brand by preventing copycat items or poorly made items which can harm their reputation.
Can allow home sewists or smaller brands to buy high quality fabric at a lower price as there is no minimum order requirement.
The Cons of Deadstock
Hard to know what kind of deadstock you are buying. This lack of transparency and traceability prevents you from getting the right information.
Allows brands to justify the use of non-eco-friendly fabric, fibers and dyes by saying they are deadstock.
Brands using deadstock take advantage of the consumers lack of knowledge surrounding what deadstock is.
Overstock/ available stock/ surplus fabric have never been intended for landfill, so it is not preventing fabric waste.
Fabric may be toxic and made in un-ethical conditions.
When fabric is rejected and re-sold by mills, they do not have to disclose why a fabric was rejected. This could mean toxic fabrics, which have failed chemical testing, are being sold to other fashion houses.
The fabric may not be able to be recycled using current practices. However, by the time it is at end of life, new recycling methods may be able to be used.
How and Where to Buy True Deadstock Fabric?
The best thing you can do when buying deadstock fabric is ask as many questions you can and need to in order to find out exactly what you are buying. Sometimes a fabric shop or fashion house may advertise as “deadstock” but won’t go into detail. Here is a list of some places that sell true deadstock fabric or recycle fashion waste.
Owned by Hannah and Rosie, The New Craft House sell only true deadstock fabric. They buy straight from the designers and are truly leftover fabrics. To protect the designers, they don’t share where the fabric has come from unless written on the fabric or a distinct print which is associated with a brand. The quality of the fabric is excellent, they are helpful and photograph the fabrics very accurately. They are currently online however have plans to open the shop soon. I can’t wait to visit! Follow them @NewCraftHouse.
Offset Warehouse, UK
Based in the UK, all Offset Warehouse’s products are socially or environmentally responsible. The company recognises that ethical and sustainable can mean different things and peoples’ focus varies. They offer fabric that either benefits the people who make them, the people who handle them or the planet and most often all of these. Every product is accompanied by a detailed description telling you exactly how it’s ethical and/or sustainable.
As part of their commitment to reclaiming fabrics and saving them from landfill, they will take in your unused remnants and offcuts and find homes for them. For scraps and larger fabric pieces email them and they will give you all the details on how to send them to us. Although Offset Warehouse don’t stock true deadstock taking in scraps and unused remnants which can be brought prevents fabric going to landfill that otherwise may have. Follow them @Offset_Warehouse
Based in Vancouver, FABCYCLE is a collection service of textile waste. They work directly with local apparel manufacturers including fashion designers to collect off-cuts, scraps and deadstock. Their mission is to “divert textile waste from the landfill by finding creative solutions, promoting the sustainable mindset of waste as a resource”. You can pick up scraps for free in store or just pay shipping fees. You can also buy larger pieces. Currently, FABCYCLE ship to North America but you can contact them to arrange shipping elsewhere. They also have a monthly Instagram challenge to get involved with too! Follow them @Fabcyclevan.
So, is Deadstock Really Sustainable?
The problem behind deadstock is that there is no certain way of knowing if the fabric is true deadstock; unless buying from a transparent brand or fabric shop. Often places just call something deadstock to sell to concisely minded and sustainably driven people. Using the word deadstock allows brands to take advantage of consumers lack of knowledge and allows them to use fabrics which are toxic and synthetic.
However, if you buy true deadstock then you are preventing fabric from going to landfill which does reduce wastage and results in more circularity. It is always more environmentally friendly to reuse existing materials. To produce new materials, it increases your carbon footprint and uses more natural resources.
Using true deadstock fabric is not the same as being completely sustainable however, it is on the right path and allows you to make unique clothes all whilst being kinder to the planet by reducing fabric sent to landfill.
I will leave you to consider my initial question, does deadstock fabric counteract this large wastage or is it just another “solution” which ignores the source of the problem?
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