• Bethan Lloyd

What is Deadstock Fabric?

Earlier in the year I went home for the weekend, to take part in the local 10K town race. A really long weekend, about 4 ½ months long. As the country went into lockdown and I was stranded with not much more than my running kit, knee high boots and a winter coat.

When summer came, borrowing oversized jumpers was no longer an option, and unwilling to duplicate the wardrobe I had sitting in London. It was time to get the sewing machine out and get creative. The result was 3 dresses, 2 tops and a handful of face masks that started life as a gingham tablecloth, an old skirt from the 80’s and retro bed sheets.

Making do, using what you have, or re-purposing fabric is not a new phenomenon. Recently the term “deadstock” has become the cover all by sustainable brands. Deadstock fabric is simply material that was created but never used. This might be because the fabric didn’t meet the specifications: if there was a fault in the make up or it was a technical fabric that didn’t perform i.e. a waterproof that leaked. Or the project changed direction and the quality or shade wasn’t desirable to a brand and the order was cancelled.

Deadstock is also the excess fabric, when too much has been produced or wasted during production. The industry expects to waste fabric, it is built into a brands production as the cabbage. About 15% of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor. The term dates back, at least to the 17th century, for the bits of fabric left over from cutting out an item in tailor’s workshops. Often scrapes that would be used for patches and stuffing, most notably the art of quilting. Stitching together of layers of padding and fabric, uses patchwork pieces and smaller scraps for stuffing, leaving zero waste.

As fast fashion has exponentially increased as has the cabbage. At the same time, the value of the fabric and the ease in which we throw things away has led to innumerable tons of serviceable textiles being castoff. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.

Reclaiming Deadstock

Essentially, deadstock fabrics are leftovers that in today’s environment, have been destined for landfill. Rather than accepting that fate, sustainably minded designers, and brands decide to purchase the fabric, and turn it into something new. A few of our My ECO STORIES interviewee use deadstock fabrics in their collections, therefore saving usable fabric from landfill. Danielle Windsor’s upcoming collection for Yaitte, will feature pieces crafted from deadstock fabric salvaged from another luxury brands business closure Georgia Braithwaite’s Reborn swimwear is created utilising off cuts from fast fashion retailers and Carmen Barclay makes the most of off cuts with her zero waste pattern cutting approach for Carmen Christine.

Is Deadstock Sustainable?

As with most things related to the fashion industry, there isn’t a straightforward answer. Modern-day fabric and clothing production tend to be unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly, unless concerted efforts are taken. Deadstock doesn’t interrupt this process; it simply reduces the amount of fabric waste ending up in landfills. Deadstock by itself doesn’t reduce the number of chemicals being used or the amount of energy required to produce a textile. However, it does address the impact the fashion industry leaves behind in terms of waste and consumption, reducing landfill and incineration.

Ultimately, using deadstock materials gives them a second life and brings back the respect for to the time, effect and resource used to create cloth.

Written by Bethan @ theecostories

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