Deadstock fabric is a textile widely used in the clothing industry to make fashion products, apparel, and accessories. It's made of surplus and leftover fabrics from manufacturers and fashion houses.
Deadstock fabric is an eco-friendly alternative to regular textiles. Many clothing brands and fashion designers use it to promote recycling, mindful consumption, and waste reduction.
The main advantage of deadstock fabric is its lower cost compared to conventional textiles used in the fashion world. This kind of fabric also gives a new purpose to textile waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Although deadstock fabric offers many benefits, it also has many drawbacks and isn't as sustainable as it seems. Many manufacturers intentionally produce more fabric than they need as they know the surplus will eventually sell.
To help you make more mindful purchasing decisions as a well-informed consumer, here is the truth about deadstock fabric that most companies are hiding from you.
What is deadstock fabric?
Deadstock fabric is surplus or leftover fabric from textile manufacturers or fashion houses that made or order more than they need for their application.
Excess fabric usually ends up in landfills to decompose or incinerators to burn as inventory is costly and often rapidly replaced with new arrivals in the fast fashion industry.
Deadstock fabric is considered is as a type of vintage or old textile with no particular use similar to fabric waste.
While textile waste also encompasses small fabric pieces that are inherent to cutting and sewing garments, deadstock fabric primarily refers to fabric rolls that are left unsold by a textile manufacturer or leftover from a clothing brand's production run.
Large fabric mills and garment factories typically have a huge amount of leftover fabric they cannot put to good use. So more mindful brands and designers recover the surplus at a discounted price to create new clothing in smaller batches.
In general, using deadstock fabric converts waste into new materials. Sustainable fashion brands transform waste fabric and scraps into new materials to create new collections. It's a more eco-conscious alternative to conventional waste disposal.
The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters globally. It's responsible for a large amount of waste, carbon emissions, pollution, water, and energy consumption.
Only a small proportion of the resources used by the textile and apparel industry is renewable. Many apparel brands and retailers keep using wasteful and unsustainable practices to produce new garments.
Fortunately, more responsible brands now offer high-quality clothing made of recycled, upcycled, and deadstock fabric. They design and manufacture clothes in a substantially fair, ecological, and resource-efficient manner.
Deadstock fabric is a clothing fabric that is even more environmentally friendly than conventional fabrics and performs just as well. It limits textile waste caused by regular fabric production.
How is deadstock fabric produced?
Deadstock fabric is made of surplus and leftover fabrics from textile manufacturers and fashion houses that produced or ordered more fabric rolls than they would require to fulfill their clients' needs.
Large fashion manufacturers, brands, and retailers often find themselves with a large amount of excess fabric at the end of a production run.
Deadstock fabric is excess textile left unsold by a fabric mill or fashion house. It typically refers to any type of fabric or material that exceeds the requirements and is destined to waste disposal.
Deadstock fabric is manufactured through the same processes as other types of fabrics, natural, synthetic, or cellulosic. It simply a naming convention for any textile surplus that is left unsold or unused.
The fashion world has drastically changed over the last 20 years. Fast fashion is now everywhere with cheap, trendy clothing selling all over the world in high-street stores at lightning speed.
Before the 1800s, clothing was made at home and in small fashion houses. The sourcing of materials, fabric weaving, garment cutting, and sewing took a lot of time and effort.
People used to recycle and upcycle excess fabric quite often before the industrial revolution to save materials and resources. Just a few decades ago, upcycling was a great way to preserve old textiles.
Fashion used to be slow and local before the rise of fast fashion over the last 20 years. Today, manufacturers produce close to 10 times more textile waste each year than in 1960.
Using deadstock fabric has the potential to reduce the amount of textile waste ending up in landfills. It makes something more valuable out of used textiles and old fabrics when their usefulness would have ended otherwise.
Deadstock fabric advantages
Deadstock fabric offers many advantages, especially for smaller fashion houses. It not only helps limit textile waste but is also more economically viable for clothing designers.
Deadstock fabric from large fabric mills or garment manufacturers can usually be purchased at a reduced price by smaller fashion labels and designers.
Many of them choose deadstock fabric because of the lowered prices that enable them to use high-quality material they wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.
Deadstock fabric is only available in limited quantities but the fashion industry is so big and still growing at an alarming rate that there is no difficulty to find appropriate excess textile for a small collection.
With deadstock fabrics, small clothing brands can enjoy higher margins and add exclusivity to their creations as they are typically only available in small quantities.
Clothing is piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. The fast fashion industry, overproduction, and overconsumption of cheap disposable clothing are responsible for tons of textile waste, land, air, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 16.9 million tons of used textile wastes are generated each year in the United States. That amount has doubled over the last 20 years.
Each year, the fashion industry extracts large amounts of natural resources and sends all kinds of textiles to landfills. More than USD 500 billion is lost due to a lack of reuse and recycling each year.
Using deadstock fabric instead of conventional textile can help solve this problem. Many brands and retailers now collect and recycle post-industrial textiles to make new collections.
Unfortunately, even if it has many advantages, deadstock fabric may not be as sustainable as it seems.
Is deadstock fabric sustainable?
Deadstock fabric has a lower environmental impact than conventional fabric because it limits textile waste that would end up in landfills. But it isn't necessarily sustainable since many manufacturers intentionally produce excess fabric knowing that it will eventually sell.
Many fashion brands and retailers decide to source deadstock fabric because it's cheaper. They use this type of textile as an affordable solution to textile waste and appeal to eco-conscious consumers, even if its eco-friendliness is questionable.
If all textile manufacturers and clothing brands kept their production to the required minimum, deadstock fabric wouldn't even exist.
Buying and using deadstock fabric contribute to its rising demand as more and more consumers are concerned with the environmental impact of their clothing purchases.
Overproducing textiles and garments doesn't even cost more to manufacturers. It's more cost-effective to overproduce rather than limit their stocks and eventually miss out on lucrative opportunities.
And throwing away any fabric surplus or leftovers that may not get sold barely costs anything at all.
Additionally, clothing designers are encouraged to order more fabric than they would need to benefit from a large reduction in price for bulk purchases.
Most textile manufacturers don't even want to lose their time with smaller production runs. So fashion brands are forced to place huge fabric orders that largely exceed their needs to cater to production minimums.
Ultimately, it's difficult to doubt the good intentions of small clothing brands that use deadstock fabric. However, some critics still consider deadstock fabric as a form of greenwashing.
A company is greenwashing when it's making misleading claims about the environmental benefits of its product or service. And deadstock fabric isn't the most sustainable fabric available today.
A lot of deadstock fabric is made from synthetic materials including polyester, nylon, acrylic, as well as semi-synthetic textiles like viscose rayon.
These materials are bad for the human environment and health because they are polluting and their manufacturing emits poisonous gas. Heavy chemicals are required in synthetic fabric production.
They pollute drinking water, the air, and soil, damaging ecosystems, plants, animals, and the planet as a whole.
Synthetic fibers can take a long time to decompose, especially if they end up in the ocean with cold temperatures and a lack of sunlight and decelerate biodegradation.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that deadstock fabric is a sustainable material. Although in some cases it can reduce textile waste, It's largely made from polluting ingredients and raw materials that consume tons of resources.
Clothing brands using deadstock fabric
For their new collections, many fashion labels use deadstock fabric to design, manufacture, and market quality clothing. Here are some clothing brands and designers that produce affordable fashion from deadstock fabric.
Reformation makes sustainable women's clothing and accessories. It offers a collection of stylish and affordable garments for petite up to extended sizes. and made with recycled materials, regenerated nylon, and deadstock fabrics.
Vetta Capsule is a clothing brand that creates mini capsule wardrobes of beautiful, stylish, and cute outfits. It seeks out eco-friendly materials with the highest quality and performance such as organic cotton, linen, lyocell, recycled, and deadstock fabrics.
Boyish Jeans is a sustainable women's denim brand focused on quality, fit, and authentic washes. It uses natural dyes and sustainable fabrics, such as Tencel lyocell, organic cotton, recycled cotton, recycled plastics, and deadstock fabrics.
Aunty Ellen creates sustainably-minded matching apparel, handmade to order in Australia. It's committed to sourcing the most ethically and environmentally friendly materials from deadstock fabrics and natural fibers to recycled packaging.
Époque Evolution is a zero-waste clothing brand that creates classic, stylish, minimalist, and sustainable clothes for women. It chooses sustainable, organic, upcycled, deadstock, and post-consumer waste recycled fibers.
ManduTrap is a sustainable fashion brand ethically designing green clothing in Berlin from eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, Tencel lyocell, and deadstock fabrics.
Lois Hazel is an Australian ethical clothing label for women. It creates affordable and sustainable apparel with eco-friendly materials such as GOTS-certified organic cotton, recycled plastics, and deadstock fabrics.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.
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