Fabrics are often the most expensive part of a garment, and sustainable fabrics can be very expensive. Deadstock fabric is a great way to be sustainable by reducing fabric waste while cutting down costs on your cost of goods sold. Most factories have leftover fabric from previous production runs, you just have to ask. Sourcing deadstock fabric is a great way to get your feet wet when you're heading towards becoming a fully sustainable brand. Here's how you can design for deadstock fabric successfully:
Deadstock fabric's impact
Fashion wastes, an estimated 6.3 million tons of textiles every year. Some brands write a check to the factory and either use it later (but forget about it) or let them use it as they please. Then some brands outright burn their deadstock fabric (Hey Burberry👋). Besides the complete waste of resources that went into making this wasted materials. Most of the material used today is some blend of polyester AKA plastic which means, we are unable to recycle it into a fiber again or, as it often ends up in a landfill, it is destined to sit there unable to decompose. So what can brands do?
Starting small with deadstock fabrics
About 10-20% of textiles are wasted in the cutting process from poor planning of patterns. Start with these fabric remnants or ask what the factory might have to offer. Get creative and think about how the fabrics can be incorporated to fit your brands image. You can use smaller pieces for hang tags, wrapping, and labels. You can even get creative with small scale art pieces for key chains and patches like Zero Waste Daniel. **If you are a bigger brand, this is a great opportunity to collaborate with a local artist for a capsule collection of items.
Designing garments with deadstock fabrics
For garments, you can use the available deadstock rolls as your starting place for inspiration. Begin by asking your factories what rolls or end of rolls they have left over on the floor; all factories have deadstock on hand. You can also go to deadstock marketplaces like Queen of Raw or THR3EFOLD's free Deadstock District. Lean into the limitations. Often when you are left with fewer resources is when you can actually be your most creative.
Bonus: Take on Post Consumer Waste
Recycling garments doesn't just have to be done through deadstock fabric. Your brand can utilize vintage clothing and be upcycled into something new for your customers to love forever! Eileen Fisher and Urban Outfitters have done this successfully along with RE/DONE, who upcycles jeans and other garments, saving nearly 145,000 garments from going into landfills.
Sustainability is always about small changes that have a positive impact on our environment, and deadstock fabrics are a great way to get started. Join our Deadstock Fabric District to find fabrics from other designers who are looking to make a difference. For more brand resources, join our weekly newsletters! Going into the new year, we want to help your brand grow for people, planet, and profit.