Is Deadstock Fabric Sustainable or Is It Greenwashing?

Giada Nizzoli

Is Deadstock Fabric Sustainable or Is It Greenwashing?

Over the past few years, deadstock fabric has found its way into Instagram hashtags, proud captions, and product descriptions on fashion websites. 

Many companies are saying (more or less explicitly) that, because they use deadstock fabric, their collections are automatically sustainable, but is this true or is it greenwashing?

What is deadstock fabric?

Some leftover fabric: what is deadstock fabric?

Deadstock fabric consists of surplus materials from textile mills productions and garment factories. It can exist for various reasons: maybe they ordered too much, they accidentally dyed it the wrong colour, or maybe there were a few small imperfections. 

Either way, it’s now leftover fabric without any plans for present or future use.

The pros of deadstock fabric

Actual sustainable deadstock fabrics

  • Reduced waste. As any company will let you know when they use deadstock fabric, they’re preventing those materials from ending up in landfills. When you think that some luxury brands burn or destroy their textiles to make sure that nobody can use them or copy them, you see why it’s important to save as much as we can!
  • Lower carbon footprint. Using leftover fabrics also means that these companies aren’t producing more textiles for that specific collection. From dying to knitting and printing these fabrics, a lot of energy is used for new productions, and deadstock fabric can save it;
  • Limited availability and uniqueness. Deadstock fabric can be great news for sustainable startups and SMEs that focus on small collections. Thanks to the very nature of deadstock fabric, there are no minimum order quantities involved and these products will truly be one of a kind;
  • Handy for smaller garments and accessories. The most sustainable companies will find ways to repurpose even the smallest scraps of leftover fabric by using it to create accessories. An example? All the brands that used deadstock fabric to make face masks during the coronavirus pandemic!

The cons of deadstock fabric

Deadstock fabric obtained with deliberate overproduction

  • Deliberate overproduction. Unfortunately, many mills and companies are being cheeky about it. Instead of using genuine leftovers, they intentionally over-produce fabrics so that they can resell them at a discounted price. Even worse, fabric jobbers will buy them from them only to resell them to fashion companies at a higher price tag, profiting from this greenwashed practice;
  • Lack of transparency and traceability. Getting enough information about these fabrics isn’t always easy, even for the fashion companies that buy them;
  • Shady production practices. Because of this lack of transparency, it might be that a company profiting from the ‘deadstock=sustainable’ misconception is actually using fabrics that were made following dodgy practices. For example, exploiting their garment workers or using dyes and materials that have a bad impact on the environment.

So, is deadstock fabric sustainable?

Whether or not deadstock fabric is sustainable isn’t a simple yes or no answer: it all depends on the practices and intentions of the companies involved. 

If they’re over-producing fabrics just to resell them for a profit, it’s clearly not sustainable nor ethical. The same can be said of when they involve highly polluting materials or questionable practices to begin with.

However, while they aren’t automatically synonyms, deadstock fabric can be sustainable and ethical.

If a slow-fashion company is buying genuine leftover materials to save them from landfills by using them to create small collections, that’s great news for the planet. 

It gets even better if those fabrics were produced sustainably in the first place. 

Charlotte dress made with sustainable deadstock fabric

Some of our favourite brands relying on deadstock fabrics for some of their garments are GAÂLA and Masha Maria.

Basically, it all depends on how transparent a company is: make sure you’re buying from trustworthy brands that are open about their suppliers and production practices.

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Project Cece is a platform that collects ethical clothing from different webshops on one website. Take a look in our shopping section and find the clothing that fits your style, budget and values!

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Project Cece is a platform that collects ethical clothing from different webshops on one website. Take a look in our shopping section and find the clothing that fits your style, budget and values!

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