What is Deadstock Fabric and Why is it Important?
Deadstock fabrics, production scraps and leftover materials are becoming increasingly common terms in the fashion industry.
In this article, DAMō wants to offer valuable insights into the pros and cons of working with deadstock fabrics, highlighting the opportunities and challenges for designers and brands looking to adopt more sustainable practices.
But what exactly does “deadstock” mean?
Deadstock in fashion refers to the excess or unused fabrics, trims, and other materials from previous clothing collections, sample pieces, or production scraps.
It has been estimated that this unused material makes up about 10% of the entire production.
Contrary to popular perception, the deadstock is not necessarily unusable due to damage or defects. It is often a by-product from brands who’ve ordered excess fabrics (perhaps to meet production minimums or as a result of overestimating product demand) or from textile mills left with surplus fabrics (this could happen after cancelled orders, changed orders — like if the brand decides it wants a different colour fabric — or quality defects).
Deadstock fabric can also be obtained from factory scraps or off-cuts and even mills that possess fabrics that failed quality control during the process of production. All of these may be considered pre-consumer sources of deadstock.
When left unused for long periods, leftover fabric ends up in landfills or sold by weight at a fraction of the original cost.
These leftover fabrics and materials hide away in designer studios, in the warehouses of big fashion houses and those of suppliers and manufacturers.
It is estimated that around $120 billion of unused materials lie inside warehouses around the world. (Queen of Raw)
The Benefits of Reusing Leftover Materials
Putting these unwanted materials back into circulation is important for two reasons:
- The textile industry sector is faced with the challenge of finding solutions that reduce the amount of textile waste going to landfills, as well as limit the environmental impact generated by the production of fabrics.
- The recovery of these materials represents an effective solution to the difficulties that young companies in the sector encounter at the time of procurement, giving them access to good quality and low-cost materials with low or even zero production minimums.
In an era in which attention to environmental protection is constantly growing and access to the best communication and travel opportunities support the diffusion of new perspectives, many designers have found benefit in exploring unconventional supply routes for materials, and some brands have already been successful in utilizing deadstock fabrics.
Here are some brands as an example of success:
- CARMINA CAMPUS Founded By Ilaria Venturini Fendi, its mantra is “save waste from waste”. Carmina Campus uses industrial materials commonly considered waste as a source of inspiration and raw material for its products. In the hands of expert Italian craftsmen, these materials acquire new life as part of design objects. Excess production, inventories, samples, defective or unused materials, everything is transformed into bags, jewels or furnishings.
- Aequae creates unique pieces that tell of the time required to be made and that claim to age and go beyond the passing of the seasons. Tailored clothes and accessories created by reusing discarded fabrics, Flanders tablecloths, old grandmothers' lace, remnants of archives, splendid fabrics donated and recovered from textile companies and used clothes to give a new life.
- Bethany Williams believes that social and environmental issues go hand in hand and through exploring the connection between these issues, we find innovative design solutions to sustainability. Each item produced by Bethany Williams is made from recycled, deadstock, or organic materials, made in the UK and Italy. The London-based brand works with social projects and local manufacturers to produce its collections. Providing an alternative system for fashion production, as she believes fashion has the power to be utilised to create positive change.
In this sense, the change in consumer habits and the search for continuous innovations have stimulated the transformation of warehouse stock, vintage fabrics and other textile materials into precious resources for the fashion sector.
However, challenges do arise when working with scrap fabrics and materials.
Which challenges emerge from working with scrap fabrics and materials?
- Even though sourcing is getting easier and easier, it is not possible to place repeat orders for the desired fabrics. The development of the collections is limited by the availability of the fabric in stock.
- It turns out to be a daunting task to prove the exact origin and composition of the raw materials used for these fabrics. With the advent of a parallel market based on the commercialization of waste, the valorisation of which is motivated by their presumed more responsible nature, as they are "saved" from destruction, it has become necessary to provide further information aimed at guaranteeing the traceability of the deadstock.
Designers and brands must therefore structure their business models and distribution processes based on this availability.
What’s in for small brands: how can they use deadstock fabric to sell directly and become more agile in producing?
Due to the limited availability of materials, the collections they create are truly unique. This is a great selling point and adds a sense of urgency to the end consumer, meaning stock moves faster with no need to resort to sales.
The collections produced are even more interesting and different from the almost identical, mass-produced mainstream fashion that dominates most shops and shopping malls.
At first, shopping for clothing produced within the limited pool of available stocks may not seem like a winning proposition in a world obsessed with novelties. However, the new generation of fashion creatives is taking up the challenge, using quantitative constraints to their advantage.
Takeaway tip for small brands: Fabrics in limited quantities are used to produce one-of-a-kind exclusive pieces, offering customers that touch of exclusivity that is becoming increasingly uncommon in the industry.
In a world where attention to environmental protection is constantly growing, exploring unconventional supply routes for materials can bring new perspectives and positive change to the fashion industry.