Deadstock fabrics are rolls of unused textiles that failed to make the final production run. This usually happens when a brand discontinues a certain style or overestimates the quantity of fabric it needs to complete an order. Even though it’s perfectly usable, deadstock fabric is written off as an acceptable loss. Which means it can gather dust on factory shelves or be disposed of in landfills.
However, deadstock fabric has taken on a new meaning with the rise of sustainable fashion. It’s beginning to be viewed less as undesirable leftovers and more as an opportunity to make small quantities of garments that have a reduced impact on the environment! The reason is simple: if you can find a way to leverage the waste that already exists, you avoid the need to make even more fabric - which in turn avoids all the CO₂, water waste, and energy linked to the making of those new fabrics.
Deadstock fabric is one of the tools we can use to fight fast fashion. To help explain why, you’ll need to know more about the industry itself.
A Brief History Of Fast Fashion
There is a clear before and after of fast fashion. Clothing wasn’t always made in excessive quantities and sold en masse. In fact, it was only recently, in the late 90s and early 2000s, that fashion really turned into a frenzy. The founding of affordable household fashion brands sparked a new revolution in the way we used and disposed of clothing. Brands turned to outsourcing for cheap - and unsafe - labour, supply chains became more complex, and the textile industry went into overdrive.
In 1995, it produced 7.6 kilograms of fibre for every person on the planet. By 2018, that quantity had risen to 13.8 kilos per person (source: Nature). As the global population also rose during that time, the increase in textile production is hard to overstate. And yes, it’s all to do with fast fashion - an explosive growth in the marketing and sale of garments, with no regard for the environment or ethics.
In an industry as gluttonous as fast fashion, it’s not hard to imagine why deadstock fabric has been allowed to exist. According to livekindly, around 15% of every production run goes unused while Panaprium claims that clothing factories produce 10 times more textile waste than they did in the 1960s!
Is Deadstock Fabric Sustainable?
Yes, we think deadstock fabric is more sustainable than many new fabrics and fibres. It helps to fight fast fashion by bringing unused textiles back into circulation. If more brands decide to use deadstock fabrics, the industry would become less inefficient, and waste would become a normal part of garment production. This is known as the “circular economy”, in which one person’s waste is another person’s raw material.
Garments made from deadstock also fight the fast fashion consumer mentality. Rolls of deadstock are usually only sufficient to produce a limited number of styles (say, 20 tees), preventing brands from overproducing and customers from overconsuming.
We love deadstock fabrics because they represent a conscious use of waste and resources! We can purchase expensive and premium fabrics at a reduced price, which we carry over into the price of our Limited Edition garments.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Deadstock Fabric?
That said, we know that deadstock has its critics. As Panaprium notes, “if all textile manufacturers and clothing brands kept their production to the required minimum, deadstock fabric wouldn't even exist.” This is an interesting point: it treats deadstock as a symptom rather than a circular solution. We agree completely that the fast fashion industry needs to look at its efficiency, which is hampered by an obsession with pre-made clothing. However, until that happens, deadstock will continue to be produced. It simply makes sense to use it while it’s here!
The other major criticism levelled at deadstock fabrics, is that factories may intentionally produce too many rolls of fabric because they know sustainable brands will buy the leftovers. We’re not sure how true that is, but it doesn’t match our experience. As we work with small factories in Northern Portugal who take a proactive approach to sustainability, it doesn’t make economic or environmental sense for them to purposefully overproduce.
Mostly, we agree with what Good On You has to say on the issue: that garments made from Deadstock shouldn’t be used as a brand’s no1. method of addressing climate change and environmental impacts, but part of a wider strategy of ethical and environmental practices.
How To Shop Deadstock Garments
Keep a lookout on the TWOTHIRDS website for the launch of our new Limited Edition styles, or read up about the last time we got our team to try them on!