Deadstock Fabrics 101
This past year, in particular, brands have realized that sustainability is a strong business model and a necessity for a successful fashion brand of the future. A big part of a brand’s sustainability work lies in finding materials with as little environmental impact as possible. The fashion industry has been buzzing with brands speaking about their sustainability efforts by using deadstock materials. Some say it’s greenwashing and a way for brands to increase their sales and some say it’s a legit way of helping mother earth.
What is deadstock, how sustainable is it and what are the pros and cons? We are laying it out in this article, so you can make informed decisions moving forward with your business.
Let’s first look at the definition to get a clear understanding of what the workings mean:
Deadstock refers to fabrics and materials that are leftover from textile mills, apparel manufacturers, and clothing brands. These materials are from past seasons and collections and are sold in rolls at very discounted prices. Jobbers – middlemen buy the deadstock, add their markup, and resell it to the public and independent designers.
Deadstock is created because of several reasons – brands might have ordered too much fabric. Or a brand changed its mind after placing an order and the mill is left with perfectly fine fabrics. Or there is something “wrong” with the fabric, small defects. Maybe the wrong shade of color, stains, yarn breakage, etc.
In-stock or available stock refers to fabrics that a supplier produces high quantities of because they know it’s a popular and in-demand material, and it will eventually sell. Suppliers produce more of a certain quality because they know there is always a demand for this type of fabric, and they want to be able to service brands with quick deliveries if needed. Plainly put – available stock means overproduced fabrics, being available asap.
Overstock refers to fabric that’s been overly produced. The mill needed to produce a certain amount because of the machinery setup, and the brand placed a lower order than the amount created. Thereof more fabric being made than being bough.
Made-to-order – a fabric that is created by a mill for a specific brand that placed a specific order amount. This most of the time takes a very long time, sometimes up to 180 days.
Pros & Cons of Deadstock
And now some pros and cons:
-Giving material a second life, instead of it potentially being incinerated or sent to landfill.
-There are low to no minimums, allowing smaller brands to buy just the amount of fabric they need instead of investing capital in fabrics that end up not being used.
-Deadstock materials are cheaper than new fabrics. This allows brands to save some money on fabrics and potentially offering customers products that are better value for money.
-One-off, exclusive materials. There are limited amounts of each material. When it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s a perfect opportunity to create limited-edition collections.
-Many deadstock materials are defective. Meaning a certain % of the roll you buy can’t be used because of the low quality. You need to check the materials and what defects it has.
-Lack of traceability. If a brand is truly sustainable they want to have control of the entire supply chain. With deadstock materials, it’s impossible to know all the facts about a certain fabric.
-In the fabric industry there are still a lot of chemicals used in the process. Due to an increase in limiting harmful chemicals, the materials need to pass certain tests. if they don’t pass chemical tests, the fabrics will be discarded and sold as deadstock. The fashion brands that buys the fabric rolls might not be aware of the reason the fabric was discarded and they might produce garments with poisonous levels of chemicals.
-The jobbers add a hefty markup to deadstock materials, meaning you might end up paying way too much, for lesser quality fabric.
As you might have understood by now, it’s not always that clear. Here is some heads up:
Many “sustainable” brands state that they use deadstock materials to save the fabrics from ending up in landfills. This can be semi-true. Some fabrics don’t end up in landfill, there have always been systems in place to move the fabrics, from factories to other factories, or vendors and the fabrics are eventually being used sooner or later. As mentioned earlier, mills have calculated operations to always earn money on the fabrics they produce, even at a discount.
Some fabric mills have huge machine setups to run a certain fabric. Meaning from the minute they turn the machine on, to when they shut the machine off, the machine needs to produce X amount of meters of a certain fabric, like 50 meters, or 300 meters, and sometimes even more. So it is better for the machine to be kept going and producing than to shut it off. Mills keep producing materials that they know they will sell as deadstock. The suppliers will still make money, and this is their main purpose. Meaning, they put this “loss” in their calculations.
As a conscious brand, wanting to buy deadstock to lower the impact and make a good deed is a great thing. But there are no easy ways of knowing what the defects are of that fabric. This of course makes it hard for brands that want to do good, and at the same time not contribute to greenwashing.
There are strong arguments both for and against using deadstock materials. You as a brand need to do your due diligence and understand the negative sides of using these types of materials and to also be transparent towards your consumers on what it eventually means for them.