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Upcycling deadstock fabric

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, accessibility to a diverse range of fabrics and dying options may not be available. 

It is incredibly challenging and expensive to own and run a completely sustainable and ethical business in the contemporary fashion industry. The difficulty here lies in a lack of demand for a more natural process and it is completely necessary to increase this demand. Every day, the fashion industry is demanding faster and cheaper. Cumulatively, the fashion world accounts for being the second largest polluter in the world and creates 20% of global industrial water pollution. The world suffers immeasurably from fashion’s environmental impact and this is easily brushed over by society and mass media because, well, we have to get dressed, right?

We are a brand that strives for absolute transparency; these articles are not meant to butter you up or green wash your conscience away. This is just a reminder that it is every single living person’s responsibility, on this big beautiful planet, to stay informed about where their products are coming from. Otherwise, we can all consider ourselves culprits. Well guess what, your journey with us starts here! We are hopeful these discussions will form part of a greater educational, artistic, and tangible concept – something that will grow into a widely accepted and practiced movement. It is time for us to expose the reality of the past and reflect on how we can change our methods while pushing for more vigilance and regulation within the industry. Our mission isn’t just to strive for change, but rather to actively show that things can be done in a natural and sustainable way, without losing the creativity and expression of one’s brand. Realism is the mantra of our time – we need to face it and embrace it. One of the ways we can do this is by using deadstock fabric for garment production.

Deadstock material can come from many different sources: a roll of fabric that was dyed the wrong colour, leftover material from massive fast-fashion production runs, fabric with minor flaws. These are just a few of the ways to come across these tossed-aside textiles. There is much speculation when it comes to the use of deadstock fabrics; some say it isn’t a sustainable option because of the way many factories purposely over-produce material in hopes of anticipating future orders. Others say that the rolls never actually make it to the trash as wasted fabric because they go into storage until buyers can be found. Quite frankly, there is a laundry list of internet trolls out there finding ways to hate on people making clothing with deadstock fabrics, as if there is no consideration that, for the majority of the time, these textiles sit in abandoned warehouses, completely unused.

The reality is that deadstock fabrics are special fabrics; they need someone to take the care to look at them metre by metre and take the time to cut around imperfections, as well as restore their color. All this care and effort is far too time-consuming and exhausting for a corporate brand to work into their production. Consider this: if you have a company looking to manufacture tens of thousands of units weekly, a roll of fabric that doesn’t meet strict specifications and is less than 100 metres in length is entirely irrelevant to them – it is considered yesterday’s newspaper. The deadstock fabric that Studio Candor sources is from an old South African textile dealer who spent the heydays of his trading career sourcing fabrics from China in order to make them available to  local CMT’s (Cut, Make, Trim) in the late 1980’s. Cape Town has such a rich textile history and it has completely transformed and enriched our business’ story as we’ve grown.

Some of the deadstock fabrics we are using could be compared to fine wines, spending decades in cellar storage until they are unearthed and appreciated, like forgotten treasure. When it comes to Studio Candor’s garments, you can feel the high quality of the 1980’s textiles married with vintage-nuevo patterns, hand-designed by our Creative Director. We celebrate our garments as fleeting moments in time, because there are only so many that can be made; we only source between 40-100 meters of a roll of fabric, never more, and often, much less. While our material supplier has asked to remain anonymous, we want to express our extreme gratitude to him for having taught us about the treasure-trove of deadstock fabrics that lie in Cape Town warehouses, unused, and for connecting us to a holistic way to breathe life back into them. In Cape Town alone there are millions of metres of fabric tossed aside and left unused because large companies are not willing to source fabrics that may not make their gargantuan profit margin goals.

Unfortunately, the majority of these deadstock fabrics are synthetic. And while, in the future, we would love to cultivate and source our own natural fibres, these forgotten materials must still be used. We believe this for two reasons. Firstly, 72% of all of the clothing in the world is made up of synthetic fibres, and while to have a completely natural-based wardrobe is a beautiful concept, it is not the reality for most of us.

Now, imagine the year is 1983, you run a small industrial textile manufacturing centre and you realize that you can significantly increase yardage and decrease costs by incorporating non-natural fibres. For you, this could mean a) Your dependency on the weather for rain to grow cotton has been eradicated, a) You can minimize cost and production time as synthetic additives are cheap and often very effective in taking dyes, are often wrinkle-resistant, durable and stretchy. Without the knowledge of climate change, this seems like the most profitable and consumer-friendly option to use as a professional wanting to grow their business. There is no time machine that can go back and unmake these synthetic fabrics and luckily, many of these textiles still test very low on the toxicity scale.

The second reason for using these fabrics is that we barely buy any pre-dyed textiles and we are passionate about sourcing our own natural dyes and experimenting with different colouring techniques. Therefore, the vast majority of the deadstock materials that we source are white, which means that there was no severe chemical process used on the fabric to modify its colour.

“At the end of the day, it’s as simple as this: there is no time to think of what you do not have, when you are presented with so many opportunities using existing materials” – Maya-Rose Torrao

It is important to note that we do not condone the continued buying of synthetic, cheap, ‘fast fashion’. Many have presented the argument that if one continues to buy waste materials left behind by ‘fast fashion’ companies then they will know that they can just make more of it. However, this is not the case for Studio Candor. Our material source has spent many years caring for the fabrics we use and in doing so has also tirelessly held off people trying to overturn the storage space and have all the deadstock materials tossed away. While there is still much to glean from this source and our partnership with our supplier, this will eventually run dry. We are proud to say that we can at least rest easy knowing that these deadstock fabrics are being used for sustainable creative projects, rather than spending the next 200 years decomposing in fashion’s graveyard.

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