Material Exchange

Quick, sustainable fashion materials - woman in denim

Getting products to market quickly and sustainably

Fashion, like all industries, is a race against the clock to come out on top. What margins need to be reached? How much must be sold? When is the deadline? While “fast fashion” is on its way out, time is still of the essence when it comes to making and selling the clothes we wear. Add the sustainability measures consumers are so eager to see and it can feel like mission impossible. How can we get products to market quickly while still fulfilling low impact promises? One answer to this multi-faceted question is deadstock. 

Deadstock fabrics on a man

Why deadstock matters

92 million tons of textile waste is disposed of globally each year. Without action, by 2030, this number will increase by 50%. Waste created by the fashion industry is a HUGE issue – and is coming to light more now with recent revelations of broken promises like those of H&M’s “close the loop” initiative and Primark’s Circular Product Standard gone wrong.

The mounting pressure to create a circular production cycle has been met with take-back schemes and recycling promises, many left unfulfilled. In a recent investigation conducted by the Changing Markets Foundation, it was found that most of the clothing donated for reuse ends up being downcycled, lost in transit, or dumped into distant landfills. Fabric waste is literally piling up while our resources are being used to create an endless range of new clothing.

Deadstock fabric largely contributes to the waste that comes from the fashion industry (cue US$120+ billion worth of deadstock being stored globally today). Ironically, these materials have never even been used – they’re leftover rolls from too-large orders, now sitting in warehouses across the globe. Sadly, most will go straight from storage to landfill or incinerator, having remained essentially untouched.

If disposing of material that has been used for a short time is a problem for the fashion industry, the disposal of fabrics that have never been used at all seems beyond reason. How could these perfectly good, new materials be sent for disposal?

“Reducing negative impacts via the use of deadstock is one way to incorporate waste reduction into the larger responsible production strategy,” says Archana Archana, Manager of Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Steve Madden. “For small and medium enterprises and emerging designers, it removes the minimum order quantity restrictions while providing an alternative supply resource.”

Archana is a member of Material Exchange’s Fashion Advisory Board (FAB) and has 10+ years’ experience in the fashion industry – specifically working with supply chains, sustainability, and social responsibility. She has an in-depth understanding of the issues fashion is currently facing and how to make change for improvement.

“Deadstock can certainly be a cog in the sustainability wheel,” Archana explains further. “What deadstock can do is slow down the landfilling of usable materials and reduce the burden on virgin material usage.”

Deadstock denim - Dogukan Sahin

Increasing the stakes

Pressure from consumers is creating a compelling argument for establishing circularity practices; rising legislation from governing bodies will soon create a demand for it. Legislators are now, for the first time ever, addressing the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

In July of this year, the European Commission came out with a revised Waste Framework Directive requiring fashion brands to pay a fee for each product they create in order to cover its responsible handling end-of-life. The hope is that this fee will spark action in setting up reliable processes once a piece of clothing has been used to the point of no return. With a monetary stipulation, it seems this is likely to happen, or at least improve the current empty promises being made by so many today.

While the fashion industry has taken longer to digitally transform compared with other industries, there is now a growing recognition of the importance of digital technologies in improving efficiency, reducing costs, and enhancing the customer experience.

Coming out on top

Despite rising awareness and regulation of fashion’s footprint on the Earth, businesses still need to make a profit – and clothing brands are no exception. Products must be created to generate revenue. Regular releases of new merchandise are required, sometimes quickly. Deadstock fabrics offer both speed to market and the reduction of waste produced by the fashion industry.

“Deadstock can help improve production timelines since the material is readily available,” says Archana. “But to make it a viable solution, the deadstock supplier needs to be able to provide required certifications and documents to help the end-user meet their requirements and goals. Now, that’s a lot of boxes to check; we’re talking chemical testing, social audits, environmental records, and more. If that can be included upfront, it would make deadstock a highly sought-after business case.”

Now this information is all available in one place: Material Exchange’s Deadstock Depot. Within the Deadstock Depot’s deadstock showroom, brands are empowered to make informed decisions about the materials they select to create their products without sacrificing quality or sustainability.

Deadstock fashion is not an end-all, be-all solution to the problems fashion is facing. Ideally, we should reduce the overall production of new clothing items. As we work toward that end-goal, deadstock provides an alternative for the clothing that currently is being made.

Let’s lower the impact that clothing has and alleviate the influx of waste that’s left to manage. Deadstock offers both of these things – and some pretty amazing products are just waiting to be created.

Explore our deadstock fabrics

Check out the Deadstock Depot in-person at one of our upcoming shows or digitally in our deadstock showroom here to discover the options – available immediately – for making clothing responsibly.

Related content

Want to chat?

We’d love to hear from you. Reach out to see how we could work together.