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The platform reflects a growing focus on sustainability in the fashion industry as brands face consumer pressure to address the climate crisis — deadstock has emerged as both a contributing factor to fashion’s environmental footprint, and a potential solution.
Deadstock refers to the unused textiles that brands are left with after they’ve finished producing a collection. It’s a common problem since many brands overestimate the amount of material they really need to ensure they don’t run out. But sometimes fabric mills can’t sell certain textiles because of a flaw or lack of demand, which also results in deadstock.
In the past, deadstock was either incinerated, sent to landfill, or sold to jobbers, fabric suppliers specialising in seconds, overruns and odd lots that are popular with independent designers. But as the fashion industry has become more aware of the textile waste problem, brands are starting to view deadstock as a valuable untapped resource.
Recent years have seen the likes of Reformation and Christy Dawn, popular women’s fashion brands based in Los Angeles, use deadstock in their current collections to great success. However, challenges around understanding the volume and quality of materials available may be preventing more brands from getting on board.
Bringing the sensory experience of buying fabric online
Melbourne-based designer Lois Hazel used to make about 80 per cent of her eponymous women’s fashion label from deadstock, but today it’s more like 20-30 per cent, as she has started focusing more on traceable, organic, recycled and certified fabrics.
“Sometimes, when we go to our deadstock suppliers, it can be so heartbreaking when we fall in love with a particular fabric and find out there is only 20 metres or so available, which means we wouldn’t be able to use it in our wholesale range,” Hazel told Inside Retail.
“Another challenge is some of the rolls have been sitting around in warehouses for months or years and can get water damage, moth holes or just damage through ageing. This then means there can be a number of faults found through the roll, making it hard to use during a production run as it slows down the process having to keep an eye out for faults and flaws.
“Lastly, as there is such a limited amount available due to the nature of where the deadstock fabrics are found, you can’t really place a ‘hold’ on it and have to take a risk on buying a fabric without sampling in it, you just have to trust your gut and hope for the best.”
That’s where Nona Source aims to make a difference. The platform gathers all the deadstock that’s available for resale across LVMH’s luxury brands in one place and provides detailed product information, including how much is left.
It also provides high-quality visuals, including videos of people stretching and moving the fabric and photos showing how it drapes on mannequins, to help designers feel confident about purchasing textiles online without receiving a sample.
“We really want to revolutionise sourcing, and we know very well that the search for materials is an extremely sensory experience for young designers. So we worked a lot on the ‘touch & feel’ experience to get a digital replication that’s as beautiful as possible, working on the photos, videos and detailed descriptions of the materials,” Marie Falguera, one of the co-founders of Nona Source, and a quality, compliance and sustainability manager at LVMH, said in a video about the launch of the platform.
Going beyond resale to reduce deadstock
For sustainability strategist Anna Forster, co-founder of The Purpose Agents, the launch of Nona Source also sends an important message to the luxury sector, where it’s common practice to destroy unused textiles in order to protect brand value.
“Luxury brands would rather destroy their leftovers than make it available for use. I’ve personally seen huge trash bins with padlocks (to prevent theft) behind the factories of luxury brands in Italy with offcuts of luxury materials destined for landfill,” she told Inside Retail.
The fact that a luxury giant like LVMH is behind Nona Source — it was developed by DARE (Dare, Act, Risk to be an Entrepreneur), the group’s in-house incubator — suggests this may be changing.
Still, Forster believes brands need to go beyond resale to prevent more deadstock from being created in future.
“Hopefully, ultimately, brands will make better sourcing decisions, or introduce fully digital sampling, which should reduce the issue [of excess stock] drastically,” she said.
“Brands that will be able to reinvent themselves to be fully circular in their entire value chain will be the true winners in the future.”