Is "Deadstock" Really Sustainable?

A more sustainable future for the fashion industry takes many solutions, from fabric innovation to circularity. Over the past few years, many brands have started to focus on more sustainable materials choices. But what about the fabric waste generated by brands who aren't making shifts today to reduce their footprint? ⁠

Deadstock, what’s that?

Deadstock fabric is also known as remnant fabric. It can be left over from clothing production due to overestimating the amount needed for an order or from sudden changes in production schedules and the ever-increasing demands for brands to rapidly adapt to fashion trends. Deadstock can also be fabric discarded due to minor “damages” such as colors that don’t quite match the original order, misaligned pattern, or uneven textures. These aren’t necessarily “damages,” but inconsistencies that simply don’t fit the bill for the original use. Regardless, the fabric can hold endless inspiration for other uses!⁠

 

Bella Top sustainable and ethically made long sleeve black boatneck top

 

The Bella Top, made from deadstock fabric


The composition question

What a fabric is made of can determine everything from how it feels and fits your body to how to best care for and eventually dispose of the item. And as sustainable shoppers, our choices - such as opting for organic materials - can be a powerful force in building a more sustainable fashion future. Because deadstock fabrics can come from any mill or production facility it is often difficult to trace the origins of the fabric and know exactly what the fiber composition is. Brands that use majority deadstock fabric for their clothing, like Dorsu, use a burn test to determine if synthetic fibers are present. With tests like this, brands that list natural fibers can ensure that there are little to no synthetic materials in the deadstock fabrics they choose. Dorsu staples, like the Savannah Tank Dress and Bella Top, are notorious for their long lasting quality and will be in your closet for years to come!

Savannah Tank Dress ethically and sustainably made from wearwell

The Savannah Dress, ethically and sustainably made from deadstock without synthetics. 


The conundrum of deadstock: It’s rising popularity

While there are many benefits to putting to use what would otherwise go to waste, there is also a risk within the growing popularity of using deadstock fabrics. Why, you might ask? If there’s a demand for deadstock, there will be a greater supply. The overproduction of materials can become profitable by claiming that it is “waste,” creating incentive on the side of fabric mills to create more than the original order required. They can produce large quantities and then sell it as a “sustainable” product! 

So, while using deadstock is a fantastic way to make use of waste within the fashion industry today, as larger shifts are made towards sustainable production practices worldwide, deadstock should eventually become obsolete or at least a lot smaller in scale. In the meantime, it is an essential part of the broader movement towards a more sustainable fashion future that minimizes environmental impact.

The Zero Waste headband ethically and sustainably made in the USA with remnant fabric for sale by wearwell

The Zero-Waste Headband, made with remnant fabric to reduce waste 

What to look for

So, what should you look for in a brand to make sure their use of deadstock is actually minimizing impact?

Small batch production! While already a great production method for reducing waste, small batch production can often be an indicator that a brand has sourced remnant material that exists in limited quantities.

A brand uses its own waste. Though it isn’t exactly the type of deadstock fabric we’re talking about here, there are a number of sustainable brands that use their own leftover fabric scraps to create zero-waste products like scrunchies, purses, and bandanas. A favorite example of ours is the Miakoda Zero Waste Headband

The Rhea Crop Top ethically made and sustainable from Tonle a zero waste brand available through wearwell

The Rhea Crop Top, made by zero-waste brand Tonle

Make sure deadstock fabric use is not a brand’s only claim of sustainability. Deadstock or remnant fabric is one of many tools available to brands that want to work towards a sustainable future, but always ask “what else are they doing to make an impact?” Take a look at a brand’s production facilities, employee policies, and sustainability initiatives. Tonle is a great example of a brand that not only sources deadstock fabrics but also uses every inch of it! On top of this, they create their timeless yet striking pieces in small batches with a production team that uses solar energy, earns fair wages, and receives health benefits and professional skill-building training. A wearwell team favorite from Tonle is the Rhea Rib Crop Top!

While fast fashion overproduction is the larger root problem contributing to excess fabric and waste, utilizing deadstock fabric is one of many powerful solutions needed on the path to creating a more sustainable fashion industry. Check out what we’ve got in store for your next favorite find, sustainably-made with deadstock. 

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