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Sustainability- The Deadstock dilemma

Introduction

The Helena was the first piece I have ever designed. It was inspired by the forest and my idea was to have a beautiful daily wearable dress that could make you feel like a mountain queen on a daily basis.

The Helena was my first baby, my first creation.

Initially, however, it was produced in small quantity by our first foreign suppliers in China and they used a polyester fabric that was accessible to them because it was the left over (dead-stock) of another clients previous collection.

What is dead-stock?

Dead-stock is surely a word you have heard of by now in the sustainability talks. The term refers to fabric that is in a way the leftover of what large clothing companies have ordered but didn't end up using, and therefore production companies are forced to re-use it by either sell it (often at a lower price) or directly use it for some of the styles of smaller clients.

Dead-stock has often been seen as a sustainable option to clothing production because it doesn't require the production of large amounts of fabrics that will cause water pollution and energy waste, but it is simply using what is already been classified as "waste" or "leftover" by other businesses.

But let's dig a little deeper, as I suggest doing always when it comes to understanding sustainability.

How does dead-stock happen in the first place?


Big companies aren't stupid, they don't order more amount of fabric if they don't actually end up using it.

However, to put in motion the process of creating a customized fabric it can be very very very expensive and suppliers, in order to stay within the costs of their employees and machines but meet the cost per meter required by large clients, only work with large MOQs or Minimum Order Quantities. We are talking about thousands and thousands of meters of fabric.

So a brand might need to order 30k meters of fabric to make a collection but only end up using 20k to actually make the dresses. They probably ordered 30k, in the first place, so the price per meter is lower. The remaining 10 will be the "left-over" or dead-stock and can be re-sold to smaller brands!

Dead-stock, however, doesn't stop the wasteful process of overproduction.

In a way, it encourages it.

Knowing that someone will eventually buy the left-over fabric (the meters that the main client will not use for their collection) pushes suppliers to higher their MOQs in order to keep the cost per meter very low, but waste energy and pollute water in the process.

Does it make sense? Making more costs less, but at a higher price for the planet.

If the dead-stock was actually not sold to anyone, resulting in money loss for the producers, they will not continue to produce in such large quantities. Now, back to the Helena.

How did we solve this problem?

So the Helena was produced with dead-stock fabric which is the only reason why our suppliers were initially ok with making only 30 pieces of that style (all in the same size).

But once the few pieces we made were all sold out and we wanted to remake them in slow-fashion and made in Italy with a better quality it became very difficult to find the right fabric.

Our solution was to have a smaller supplier embroider the fabric in lower quantity (so there is no waste) but logically at a higher cost. Fabric cost per meter is no longer only a couple dollars but 13-15$ a meter.

To me it was important to explain the process and the struggle to make something beautiful and yet in the most sustainable of ways. We are so used to have access to very elaborate fabrics and patterns at a super lower price and we forget to stop and think about how that item is made and what is the real cost of that price.

The Helena now is back and the fabric might have small details changes from batch to batch as we will be making it with smaller suppliers that work with a different kind of embroidery machine. It will however be made in ALL SIZES, in Italy by tailors working in optimal working conditions, in an artisanal way and with the greatest care for the environment.

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