Reuse, renew, recycle! Are you able to make new fashion from old?

woman in green and white plaid dress shirt and black pants leaning on gray wall

It’s not only environmentally friendly to use ‘deadstock’ (remaining clothes from clothing manufacturing) to make something new, but it’s also surprisingly inspiring.

Semantics can often help to identify shifts in fashion. Consider the term “deadstock”. It was once an industry term that meant fabric left unused by the manufacturer. However, it has now become commonplace. Consumers are increasingly interested in brands that use deadstock in their designs. They appreciate the idea of reducing the amount of waste fabric going to landfill. The fact that we are even discussing this in a fashion article suggests sustainability is becoming a priority in a post-pandemic world.

As with many buzzwords, deadstock is often more than what it appears. The term may be used to describe unused, unworn clothing that has been rediscovered by an experienced vintage dealer who has good contacts and an eye for old warehouses. For example, the Deadstock Nike Jordans would be a holy grail for any hypebeast. Its environmental benefits have been questioned. Some argue that, while using deadstock is obviously better than producing something from scratch, brands might actually be using what is called “available stock” – the extra fabric manufacturers produce along with orders with the confidence that this too will be sold.

“With no clear terminology, brands can call deadstock stock, stock that has not been purchased by them, rather than unsellable products,” Dilys Williams, director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion. This is a controversial area. Terminology can be used to correct misused concepts and reinforce others.

We might want to look at an alternative term, “upcycling”. Designers are repurposing vintage clothing or fabric to make crafty home projects, such as turning an old water bottle into toothbrush holders. Virgil Abloh used fabric from Louis Vuitton’s archives in his latest collection. This is how up to half of the collections byMarine Serre are made. Collina Strada and Browns collaborated recently using clothes from a secondhand marketplace in Accra. It was an obvious comment on the way the west sends unworn clothes to Africa.

This isn’t just for high-end designers. These techniques are not only used by high-end designers. Bonfini claims it’s partly for aesthetic reasons but also environmental. The uniqueness of each piece is influenced by the vintage denim and fabrics that we recycle. All garments are disassembled and reassembled like playing with mosaic tiles. Each piece is unique and different.

Farewell Francis’ Carly Scheck uses vintage quilts sourced from estate sales to eBay to create her pieces. She also used pretty $25 (PS19), face masks that were featured on She says, “I wanted people to see that beautiful things can still be made from existing textiles.” “I feel that older textiles are more durable than modern materials because they were made with more care and love.”

Bonfini and Scheck both love the fabric-first method of designing. Scheck says that most designers would first sketch out their ideas and then find the material. “However, when I use vintage or deadstock material, what happens is that I find the fabric and let it guide my design. I feel like this requires a different kind of problem-solving than most designers.

Bonfini believes that inspiration can come from anywhere. He says, “The collection I created with vintage tote bag was inspired by garments I made for myself using tote bags that I had at home after a move.” We have to thank a friend, who sells vintage clothing in Berlin, who was able to locate scarves for the pieces we created using scarves from the vintage soccer teams.

Williams claims that these designers aren’t the only ones to have discovered the joys and benefits of upcycling. Williams mentions Bethany Williams, Christopher Raeburn, and Stella McCartney. She also points out Stella McCartney’s 1996 first collection, which featured vintage lace and silk. JJ Noki was another designer who rose to fame around the same time, using pieces made from old T-shirts and jeans. “The don of working that way.” She insists that fashion can make a difference in terms of fashion’s effect on the environment. “We need a multiplicity if approaches,” but she also believes that there are huge reuse, renew and recycle opportunities in clothes from the UK. What is the ultimate goal? “We must find ways to sustain livelihoods, create joy and creative expression with less clothes.”

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