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A decade ago the fashion industry’s focus was far removed from making use of leftover fabric and deadstock materials. Today, it is a different story. With fashion brands becoming more eco-conscious and finding new and innovative ways to increase sustainability, more than ever manufacturers are recycling leftover fabrics. Upcoming brands in particular are actively putting leftover materials back into circulation and in doing so, are helping towards creating a greener planet.

fabric rolls white

One of the main problems with clothing production is the excessive amount of pre-consumer and post-production waste. The latter refers to the leftover garments in stores and manufacturers factories. To get rid of these leftover garments many brands offer huge discounts on such material whereas some will discard of the fabric. Pre-consumer waste includes leftover fabric and trims resulting from over-ordering and over-production. Aside from zero-waste production it is very difficult to avoid having leftover fabric from the clothing manufacturing process.

There are ways for surplus materials to be put back into the market with the inclusion of selling these fabrics to smaller subcontractors who only require a small amount of material. For example, businesses such as hotels and restaurants need small quantities of leather to create card cases, receipt holders and key fobs. Other manufacturers use leftover fabric to fill cushions and mattresses.

Excessive waste is more apparent in larger factories that store stock for their clients and are left with any unwanted material. When surplus stock becomes so excessive that it hinders the manufacturers production, the fabric is sold in bulk to “jobbers” who buy higher quantities of material at a lower price and re-sell the fabric to smaller designers.

It is more difficult for smaller brands to sell their leftover fabric, as their smaller quantities are less desirable to jobbers. Alternatively smaller manufacturers can donate any surplus stock to charities and fashion colleges or can try selling them on marketplaces such as Ebay and Etsy.

Putting leftover materials back into circulation means that fewer fabrics are thrown away. It can also be beneficial for new brands to get hold of high quality materials at a reasonable price with low or no order minimums. If you are thinking of designing a fashion line it may be worth considering sourcing leftover fabrics from factories with surplus stock. However, there are several disadvantages to using leftover fabric. As the material is scrap, it is not guaranteed that you will be able to get hold of any more of this specific fabric, meaning that you will not be able to repeat orders. There are also problems in finding the details of the materials origin and composition, information that may be required for your fashion business. For smaller brands, the small quantities of fabric available can become appealing as the products become exclusive and limited edition pieces. Such limited availability can result in faster sales. This is also an attractive alternative to mainstream, mass-produced fast fashion pieces.

With fashion brands continuing to find new ways to recycle fabrics the fashion industry seems to be applauding sustainability. Although there is a long way to go, fashion seems to be on the right path towards a greener industry.

By Taylor Ann Vaughan


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