What is Deadstock Fabric?
"Deadstock" is a term used for materials that have been produced but never used or sold. Maybe a clothing brand or fabric mill overestimated their needs. Maybe the brand changed their mind about a fabric color after it had already been put into production. Deadstock fabric is usually considered sustainable because it is repurposed instead of being sent to a landfill. However, as with all buzzwords, the use of deadstock is a nuanced sustainability practice with both positive and negative effects on the environment.
Let's talk about the environmental benefits.
The main benefit of using deadstock fabric is reducing waste. The fashion industry is notorious for its unsustainable practices, which often result in vast amounts of textile waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, America generated 16.9 million tons of textile waste in 2017 alone. By using up deadstock fabrics when creating new products, we can reduce the amount of textile waste sent to landfills or incinerators and decrease the carbon footprint of the fashion industry.
Another environmental benefit to using deadstock fabrics is reducing the need for virgin materials. Conventional textile production uses a huge amount of natural resources like water, energy, and raw materials like cotton. By repurposing fabric that has already been created, we can divert these resources to other uses, hopefully conserving them for future generations.
And now for the complicated part.
Despite its benefits, using deadstock fabric does have a negative side. Deadstock is often difficult to trace back to its original source. As a result, its environmental impact can't be evaluated properly throughout its life cycle, making it challenging to determine true sustainability credentials.
Another significant concern is that the use of deadstock fabric can perpetuate the ever spinning cycle of fast fashion. Deadstock fabrics are often created by brands seeking to produce super quickly and super cheaply with a focus on quantity over quality. This approach encourages consumers to consume faster, which ultimately increases the demand for new textile products, and the cycle continues.
While using deadstock fabric can reduce waste, it is not a solution to the root problem of overproduction in the fashion industry. We desperately need to transition towards a more circular economy, wherein waste reduction is only one element of a closed-loop system that prioritizes resource efficiency and is regenerative.
So what does this all mean?
Deadstock fabric is still a sustainable alternative to conventional textile production in the short term. By using up these materials, we can reduce waste and conserve resources. But as with so many things, the environmental impact of deadstock fabric is not straightforward, and concerns about perpetuating fast fashion and overproduction must be addressed by the industry as a whole in order to make meaningful progress towards a more sustainable future!