OMG it's been forever since I did a sustainability school post. I was feeling like I covered all the topics I wanted to but I have been thinking a lot about dead stock fabrics lately so I thought it was a great topic to talk about and also explain why I don't use them.
What is Deadstock fabric?
Deadstock fabric is quite literally as it's named, its fabric stock that is 'dead', dead in the sense that it is no longer in production. From what I understand, there are multiple ways to be a dead stock fabric,
the first would be straight from the fabric manufacturer, so they would have a fabric they were making and restocking and then one day they decided to stop making this fabric, turning all remaining stock of it into dead stock.
The next type would be a clothing brand that orders custom colors/prints/whatever and they order huge amounts of fabrics to make their production runs, then they only need, let's say 70% of that fabric (random example), then the 30% left of their fabric will sit in their stock not to be used.
Another type would be, a company orders a customized fabric from a manufacturer but the fabric doesn't pass their final quality check, color match, or whatever it is. Maybe they just straight up cancel the order. The manufacturer is left with this fabric they made custom.. so they sell it as dead stock!
For both these types, people started noticing there was an opportunity here to give those rejected or unused fabrics a new opportunity at life, so a sort of middle man industry started reselling dead stock! Manufacturers and large fashion brands were happy, because fabric they had written off as unusable or unwanted, was now an opportunity to make more money! So they sell this fabric to resellers who label it as dead stock and sustainable and sell it to smaller brands or consumers.
Pros and Cons
I hope you can already gather that there is good and bad in this process.
The good is that dead stock fabric is taking fabric already in existence and giving it an opportunity to be used where it was just seen as unusable or just gathering dust in a warehouse. It's also good because some brands are so small that they cannot meet the minimum requirements for fabric orders and thus they are very limited in where they can buy fabric, so this gives them a chance for more options.
So, it's good for environmental reasons, i.e. using fabric already made and avoid it being wasted.
The bad... well in my opinion there is actually a lot of bad.
Creating an opportunity for brands to profit/get a bail out from buying/producing too much fabric is not good. It gives them the motivation to keep overbuying and overproducing because they will have no negative effects on their financials, because whatever they don't use they can sell as deadstock to resellers. MAYBE if they couldn't make money off of their careless overproduction they would be more motivated to REDUCE how much fabric they are ordering and making.
Another bad thing is that a lot of the time, the fibre content of the deadstock fabric is unknown or lost along the way. This means, the end user isn't always sure what they are wearing on their skin. Skin sensitivity is a big thing for me and also just knowing what you are buying and wearing is important. Because deadstock is viewed as so eco-friendly, people will not care what's actually in the clothes they are buying because it's labeled as deadstock. Meanwhile the fabric could be polyester or acrylic and be terrible for the environment... but it's dead stock so it's sustainable.. right? Not really...
Because deadstock fabric could be fabric from the previous year, it's hard for me to see the fibre content as acceptable as eco-friendly.
I understand it's important to use what is already in existence, but the fact that this type of fabric relies on the overproduction and waste of large brands feels very wrong to me. Why should a dead stock cotton/polyester blend be considered just as eco/sustainable as a certified organic cotton, or a hemp fabric? To me it really isn't. Even if it is dead stock, that fabric has contributed to waste and harm to our planet and the people producing the fabric. It feels like a widely accepted greenwashing campaign to me.
ANOTHER bad thing is quality. A large part about environmentally friendly fashion is the quality of the fabric and clothing. If your fabric pills and losses its quality after a few weeks or months of wear, it won't last very long until it's unwearable. With deadstock fabric you don't know where the fabric was made, the quality standard or much at all about the origin.
Of course there are different types of dead stock so there are times when this information is known, in those cases it's obviously different.. Also there are tests you can do for quality and to figure out what it's made of, but there is a lot of unknown and this could lead to just poor fabric longevity.
I'll just close with saying, I completely respect brands who use deadstock, I do see how it's more eco-friendly then just ordering new cotton, polyester, or other non-eco fabrics. But at the same time, it should not be labeled as sustainable or eco friendly. Heres an example! Company X overproduces a 100% virgin polyester fabric. It's resold as deadstock to a designer, they label it as sustainable deadstock fabric. The polyester has not magically become eco-friendly, it hasn't become recycled polyester... it's the same polyester, just with a different owner. And somehow switching owners makes something sustainable/eco-friendly? No.
I do love how it is diverting waste and making use of what rejected or not being used. However, I really don't like how it's accepted as being environmentally friendly and how it's encouraging companies to keep overproducing.
In my opinion, eco-sustainable fabrics are about more than just what is in them and when they were made.
It's about what you are wearing on your skin, is it good for your skin?
It's about the people making the fabric, are they being subjected to harmful chemicals and work environments?
It's about what happens to your fabrics while washing, how long you will wear them, what is the quality of the fabric!?
I don't use deadstock fabric for Lights of All because I deeply care about both the quality, environmental impact, the workers who made the fabric and its effects on your skin while wearing.