What is Deadstock Fabric?
Updated: Jul 11, 2022
Earlier in the year, I went home for the weekend to participate in the local 10K town race. A really long weekend, about 4 ½ months long. As the country went into lockdown, 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 three dresses, two tops and a handful of face masks that started life as a gingham tablecloth, an old skirt from the 80s and retro bed sheets.
Making do, using what you have, or re-purposing fabric is not new. Recently the term "deadstock" has become the cover all by sustainable brands. Deadstock fabric is resource 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 brand's production as the cabbage. About 15% of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor. The term dates back to the 17th century for the bits of fabric left over from cutting out an item in tailor's workshops. Often scrapes are used for patches and stuffing, most notably in the art of quilting. Stitching together layers of padding and fabric uses patchwork pieces and smaller scraps for stuffing, leaving zero waste.
As fast fashion has exponentially increased, so has cabbage. At the same time, the value of the fabric and the ease with which we throw things away has led to innumerable tons of serviceable textiles being cast off. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that 15.1 million tons of textile waste were generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.
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 interviewees use deadstock fabrics in their collections, saving usable fabric from landfills. Danielle Windsor's upcoming collection for Yaitte will feature pieces crafted from deadstock fabric salvaged from another luxury brand's business closure. Georgia Braithwaite's Reborn swimwear is created utilising off-cuts from fast-fashion retailers. 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 in landfills. Deadstock by itself doesn't reduce the number of chemicals being used or the amount of energy required to produce 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 the time, effect, and resource used to create cloth.
Written by Bethan @ theecostories