To use or not to use? That is the question.
What is your view on DEADSTOCK?
Recently I listened to another episode of Clare Press’s Wardrobe Crisis (all hail the Sustainable Fashion Queen). This is by far my favourite coverage of our evolving Fashion Industry and I look to her research as a way of keeping my finger on the pulse. This particular recording was of her recent interview with Courtney Holm of ABC.H.
As usual, I loved listening to her take on Sustainable fashion and how we as an industry can improve our methods. I have also been a longtime admirer of ABC.H’s vision and ideology of what the Fashion Industry could look like in a dreamscape-idealistic scenario.
Given that Holm’s brand has been around for only 12 months longer than ours, I have seen a long affiliation with her story. I share and admire her values and intentions to bring about a new wave of Sustainably-focused transparency and tackle the status quo around the Hand-Worker’s career choice. However, part of the conversation stopped me in my tracks (and I mean this quite literally as I was out for my morning walk amidst a Sampling Trip in Shenzhen).
Towards the end of the captivating episode, the use of Deadstock or Fabric Remnants was brought into question. It was said that the use of this by brands “trying to do the right thing” could be seen to feed the economy responsible for over-ordering excessive materials in the first place.
Now, as a business owner who set out to create a range of handbags and accessories that solely uses Recycled or Upcycled materials, this side of the argument really set my wheels in motion (and this time I mean figuratively as by this stage I was storming the streets in a moral tizz of frustration).
We are vegan, zero-waste fashion designers (yes, we’re woke a.f) and we have long debated the inclusion of ‘pre-existing’ vinyls in our range. Our philosophy is to cause no harm and we do part of this by selecting as sustainable a material as is available whilst still offering options within our collection.
Therefore, the way we view ‘Deadstock’ material is that unless another business of our size and value set will do something with it — it will wreak more havoc being put into landfill than if we used it in local Small Batch Production. In this way we release it back into the consumer market as a Trash-to-Treasure martyr for another business’ wasteful ways.
Our belief is that by a business using an existing material they are avoiding any additional land use, require no fertilisers and/or the use of fresh water, not to mention avoiding the need to assess the risk of human-rights and working conditions in Textile Mills. That is not to mean it is a harmless process - the simple fact that the material exists surely caused harm in the first instance, especially if it was in the hands of those who carelessly discarded it.
Through the Designer’s lens, we view this as a solution to a problem caused by our industry and feel it is the responsibility of value aligned businesses to do something about it. Of course, by voting with our wallet and acquiring these materials it could be seen as adding to the problem but for that I ask - if you walk past litter on the street, do you bend down and pick it up or do you leave it for someone else to dispose of? How does this industry tackle this problem if we are to turn our back and refuse it in our range?
Recently I attended Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project Training in Brisbane. In groups, we discussed methods we can steer the Fashion Industry to reduce its’ carbon footprint. We worked on ‘Big Picture Thinking’ ideas and were encouraged to consider idealistic albeit seemingly unrealistic ways to measure our impact. When I look at this problem I see that perhaps this Deadstock conversation could revolve around a scaleable timeline whereby new businesses are restricted from using virgin materials until all fabric remnants are accounted for.
This scenario would work in our Industry’s transition period while we hope/work/pray that big businesses start to tackle the Green Economy but it limits the growth of new businesses. The flaw in this idea is that we need these new businesses who have set out to right the wrongs of the previous generation and as such regulations like the above will slow creativity and innovative thinking on the Grassroots front.
Another possibility could be insisting that a percentage of all new product-based businesses must utilise some existing resources in their developments until we run out, but again - we run the risk of ceasing textile development of recycled-materials and if I’m to quote Courtney Holm herself “Recycling is not the answer” which leaves me begging the question - then what do we do with all the textile waste we already have?
By and large I know there is no clear answer to these questions but I do believe that even businesses who are ‘trying to do the right thing’ aren’t trying to wreak more havoc on the planet. In actual fact (aside from the grim depths of greenwashing that we see in the media today) - I think that many designers are doing their best to navigate the way out of this problem.
Regardless of all the above I am still left pondering the following question when it comes to our upcoming production: is this a positive or negative effect we are having on the industry and which moral path do we choose?
Ultimately it comes down to education: education of the consumer, education of existing Waste Management Systems (seemingly nonexistent here in Australia) and most importantly; education of the Designer.
Having been a part of this industry for over 10 years, I cannot take back what I have already done. I cannot undo the fertilisers released for my previous life of Cotton production or the poly bags and toxic dyes my denim development has caused. However, I can start by using products and resources that already exist and in so doing - creating an educational conversation around the importance of reversing our ignorant ways. It is my hope this will inspire up and coming designers to consider the future generation’s Design and Development methods and not encourage big businesses to over order on the basis that some small business will buy their scraps to save on their Costs of Production.