As the concept of sustainability in fashion becomes more mainstream, many brands are starting to use buzzwords to promote their contribution to the sustainable movement. One of the most popular is “Deadstock” as in deadstock fabric. What does this mean?
Deadstock is fabric, presumably surplus from a fabric mill’s production run, that is unwanted or needed by the designer or brand that originally commissioned the fabric. The idea behind using deadstock fabric is that by purchasing it and turning into clothing, it’s being saved from a landfill and turned into something useful.
Rolls of fabric in downtown LA
In reality, most surplus fabric is and always has been sold eventually, whether to a fabric store or smaller clothing brand. Fabric mills don’t like to waste their money and resources by sending fabric to the dump or burning it (as is sometimes alleged) and there have always been systems in place to recoup their costs.
Buying and using deadstock fabric is still a great option for smaller clothing brands and designers that don’t need to reproduce a style or make large quantities, but it is certainly not the most sustainable option that exists.
For far-reaching, lasting change to truly be made within the textile and fashion industries, it’s crucial that fabrics be produced with materials that are sustainable to begin with. Lenzing™ Modal and Tencel are made primarily from sustainably harvested wood pulp and use a low impact production method that recycles 99% of the water and solvent used.
Modal jersey fabric
Producing organic cotton instead of conventional cotton uses 71% less water and 62% less energy, keeps harmful pesticides out of the soil, and is safer for farmers. Hemp is another wonder fabric which doesn’t use pesticides, actually replenishes nutrients in the soil it’s grown in, and is extremely durable and naturally UV-resistant. Linen, made from flax, uses a low-impact production method as well. All of these “plant-based” fabrics are also breathable, offer moisture or temperature controlling properties, and are biodegradable.
Cotton Bolls (source: Google)
Taking it a step further are companies like Circular Systems who are using the Agra-Loop™ Bio Refinery to transform food crop waste like banana, hemp and flax stalk, pineapple stalk and more into usable materials including textile-grade fibers. These kinds of technologies and innovations are becoming more prevalent as the fashion and textile industries become aware of the urgent need to improve.
Pineapple Leaves (source: Pinterest)
Dye is also a crucial factor in fabric production since chemical dyes and treatments on fabrics are often disastrous for the environment. Great strides are being made with vegetable dyes, which are vastly gentler. As more companies invest in improving vegetable dyeing technology, obstacles like poor colorfastness and dull shades are becoming a thing of the past.
Vegetable Dyed Yarns (source: Pinterest)
Supporting brands and companies that are committed to using sustainable materials and decreasing waste during production is an important way to help shift industry standards. Sustainability shouldn’t be a selling point - it should be a given.