Fashion has always been a notoriously unsustainable industry, responsible for a significant amount of waste and pollution. However, as consumers become more and more conscious of their impact on the environment, the need for sustainable fashion has become increasingly urgent.
Since I started designing and selling womenswear in 1992, I have consistently opted for deadstock fabrics, and more recently, vintage trousseau linens and sustainable fibres, as the primary materials for my collections. This conscious decision aligns with my commitment to ethical and sustainable fashion practices. By utilising these materials, I am able to reduce waste and minimize my environmental impact while creating unique and high-quality garments.
These materials not only offer a unique and often high-quality alternative to new fabrics, but they also help to reduce waste by repurposing and giving new life to existing materials. But what do these terms mean?
Understanding Vintage, Deadstock and Sustainable Fabrics
What are Vintage, Deadstock and Sustainable Fabrics?
Vintage fabrics are those that are at least 20 years old and have a historical or cultural significance. Deadstock refers to fabrics that were never used in production and have remained unused in factories or warehouses for a long time. Sustainable fabrics, on the other hand, are made from materials that have a low environmental impact, such as recycled or organic materials.
The Process of Sourcing Vintage and Deadstock Fabrics
Sourcing vintage and deadstock fabrics involves hunting for materials that are no longer being produced or are difficult to find. Often, vintage fabrics are found in second-hand shops or through vintage fabric dealers. Deadstock fabrics can be found in old fabric stores or warehouses, but the challenge is finding enough of the material to produce a collection.
The Different Types of Sustainable Fabrics
Sustainable fabrics can be made from a variety of materials, including organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and recycled fibres, among others. These fabrics are produced using environmentally friendly processes and are designed to have a minimal impact on the environment. For example, I use Tencel lyocell, which is known for the closed loop production process that saves resources and recycles 99% of the chemicals used.
The Advantages of Using Vintage and Deadstock Fabrics in Women’s Clothing
Reducing Environmental Impact
Using vintage and deadstock fabrics for clothing production is a more sustainable option than producing new fabrics. It reduces the demand for new materials and lowers the amount of waste generated by the fashion industry.
Preserving History and Culture
Vintage fabrics tell a story, and incorporating them into clothing designs is a way of preserving history and culture. Each garment made from vintage or deadstock fabrics is unique and has a story behind it, making it more meaningful to the wearer.
Unique Designs and Quality
Vintage fabrics often feature unique prints and patterns that are no longer in production, making them a one-of-a-kind addition to any wardrobe. These fabrics also tend to be of a higher quality, with a more durable feel and better texture than modern fabrics.
The Challenges of Using Vintage and Deadstock Fabrics in Women's Clothing
Scarcity of Materials
Finding enough vintage or deadstock fabric to produce a collection can be a challenge, especially for larger brands. This can limit the production capacity and result in higher costs.
Because vintage and deadstock fabrics have been stored for a long time, their quality may be inconsistent. Some fabrics may have wear and tear, faded colours, or minor imperfections that can affect the final product.
Higher Production Costs
Using vintage and deadstock fabrics can be more expensive than using new materials, due to the scarcity of the materials and the additional labour required to source and sort them. This can result in higher production costs, which may be passed on to the consumer.
How Vintage and Deadstock Fabrics Will Contribute to the Future of Sustainable Fashion
Vintage and deadstock fabrics offer an exciting opportunity for designers and brands to incorporate sustainable practices into their collections. By using these materials, they can reduce waste and minimize the need for new fabric production, which in turn lessens the environmental impact of the industry.
Vintage fabrics are those that are more than 20 years old and have a unique history and character. They often offer a high-quality alternative to new fabrics, and their use in sustainable fashion adds to the overall sustainability of the industry by extending the life of existing materials.
Deadstock fabrics, on the other hand, are those that were never used in production and are typically sold off by manufacturers or retailers. By using these fabrics, designers can repurpose existing materials and create new garments without the need for additional fabric production. This not only reduces waste but also adds to the unique and limited nature of the garments.
The Importance of Sustainable Fashion
The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world, with textile production and dyeing alone accounting for 20% of global industrial water pollution. Furthermore, the rise of fast fashion has led to a culture of disposability, with clothing being discarded at staggering rates. In response to this, sustainable fashion has emerged as a movement that seeks to reduce waste and minimize the impact of the industry on the environment.
Sustainable fashion practices include everything from using eco-friendly fabrics and production processes to reducing waste and incorporating circular economy principles. By adopting these practices, fashion brands can make a significant difference in reducing their environmental impact and ensuring a more sustainable future for the industry.
Other Brands Leading the Way in Sustainable Fashion through Vintage and Deadstock Fabrics
Some brands have already begun to incorporate vintage and deadstock fabrics into their collections as part of their sustainable fashion practices. Here are three examples:
Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia has long been a leader in sustainable fashion practices, and their use of deadstock fabrics is just one example. By using existing materials, they reduce waste and minimize their environmental impact. Additionally, the brand offers a repair program for their products, further extending the life of their garments.
LA-based brand Reformation has become synonymous with sustainable fashion and has incorporated vintage and deadstock fabrics into their collections. Their use of these materials not only reduces waste but also adds to the unique and limited nature of their garments.
Luxury fashion brand Stella McCartney has been a vocal advocate for sustainable fashion practices and has incorporated both vintage and deadstock fabrics into her collections. Her use of these materials adds a unique and eco-friendly element to her luxury clothing and accessories.
Conclusion: The Importance of Adopting Sustainable Practices in Fashion
The use of vintage and deadstock fabrics is just one example of the ways in which fashion brands can adopt sustainable practices. However, it serves as a powerful reminder of the impact that small changes can have on the industry as a whole.
Whether a producer or consumer, it is our responsibility to ensure that fashion brands prioritize sustainability in their production processes. By choosing to support brands that incorporate sustainable practices, we can help to create a more eco-friendly and responsible fashion industry.