Deadstock & Surplus Fabric Sourcing and Our Zero Waste Projects

It is true that fashion has a reputation of being wasteful. It is estimated that in the UK alone, approximately 350,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in landfill every year. That is approximately £140 million worth of clothing that is used but still wearable, being dumped each year. Ouch! In terms of the UK clothes, this is roughly 30% of our clothing going to landfill.* It is estimated that the average garment is worn just ten times before it is disposed of. Just ten!**

** )

For sure a lot of clothing is going to waste. One of our key principles at Saywood is to love your clothes always. This means keeping them for a long long time. We make our pieces to last; they are high quality, with quality material. But it’s not just how we make them, it’s how we design them. Timeless classics, with a twist. The colour and details dreamed up in the design process there to create a truly special piece just for you, to love in your wardrobe.

Saywood sketches pinned to a board with fabrics for the design process. The top of fabric rolls can be seen to the left of the image.
A sneak peak at the design development process.

At Saywood we have a take back scheme in place, although you probably won’t see it materialise for some time. We only launched in October 2020, so we really hope you might wish to keep your Saywood pieces for some time! But when that time eventually comes, if you don’t have someone to pass your piece on to so they can love it onwards, we’ll be happy to resell it on our website. Second hand just means that a true wear forever piece is simply ready for its next story. And you’ll receive a Saywood gift voucher in return. So this is just one of the ways we are creating circular.

But enough about our grand plans. This is about deadstock.

Saywood fabric rolls can be seen leaning against a wall, with the top of a dress making stand in the foreground.

Circularity can come in many forms. At Saywood we are big fans of using deadstock. We actively source deadstock fabrics from our mills. Deadstock is a fabric that has been produced but not been put to use. This can be for several reasons. Someone may have placed an order and decided not to collect it. Sometimes this may be unpaid for even. It could be that they no longer had use for the cloth themselves, that it didn’t pass the required tests (maybe a stripe wasn’t so straight), the delivery was late (fast fashion brands in particular love to request a hefty discount if this happens). Or maybe the mill just made too much cloth. Often to get the desired quality, fabric mills have to produce a certain amount of cloth per roll and order. For example, in Europe, fabric mills are often set up to do smaller order quantities, 100-500m. But in the Far East for example, the mills are usually set up to do much bigger runs; this could be in excess of 1000m for example, 2500 - 5000m minimums are not unusual. 

Saywood fabric sourcing process, should a cotton colour card, with bits of the cloth cut up into smaller movable pieces.

A little insight into the fabric sourcing process. Often fabric mills create ‘hangers’ or large swatches of fabrics to show to buyers around the world. They have to have many of these large squares of fabric, let's say A4-A3 size, to show to brands, and then send out on request. Sometimes, they are cut up small for colourcards. To be able to produce these swatches, the mills will have to make a small run of cloth to cut up. The leftovers from this can be used for sampling, or effectively become deadstock.

So given deadstock can be quite widely available, at Saywood we look to sourcing from this as much as possible. We can't always get what we are after, but if we can, using up what’s heading to waste is a much better route than seeing cloth go to landfill. Let’s face it, no one wants that.

Saywood deadstock Etta Oversized Shirtdress in red check cotton, worn over jeans by model who is looking to one side and smiling, with vintage vases in the background
The Etta Shirtdress in our red check deadstock cotton.

In our collection, the Etta Oversized Shirtdress and the Jules Utility Shirt in the vibrant red check are made from deadstock. But look how beautiful they are. One person's waste is another’s treasure! Our Zadie Boyfriend Shirt in olive is the same too. We’ll be keeping this fabric in circulation thank you, they make gorgeous shirts!

Saywood deadstock cotton Jules Utility Shirt in red check worn with jeans by model leaning against a mid century cupboard unit, with pampas grass  in a vintage vase to the right
The Jules Utility Shirt in red check deadstock cotton.

But I can tell you know, waste doesn’t just happen at stage one. There is of course factory floor waste when the garments get made. But we are working with factories with zero-waste on the agenda. Their factory floor offcuts are being sent for use in paddings, such as in mattresses, and in London they also convert some of this waste into biofuel. Imagine that… powering your factory with your own waste! We love it!

Womens olive green shirt: Saywood Zadie Boyfriend Shirt in olive deadstock cotton. Model has the belt tied round her waist with her hand in her pocket.

Zadie Boyfriend Shirt in Olive

It is also very difficult to order the exact amount of cloth for each garment. We aim to get as close as possible to exactly what we need, but sometimes it runs a little over. And fabric mills don’t cut the rolls from their stock, they have too much ready and packed in their warehouse. So we try to fulfil as best we can within our production run or garments. 

Saywood Deadstock project, showing the sewing room with an industrial sewing machine, fabrics leanign against the wall and dressing making mannequin.
Deadstock sewing project in the Saywood studio

But when we do get leftovers, guess what?! We use it! We don’t want to create anymore extra waste. And this is where it gets really exciting, because we can have fun with the leftovers. Right here in the Saywood studio, we have a play and think up new pieces that can be created from the leftover cloth or leftover scraps. The trick is to keep that waste right down. 

Saywood scunchies in various colours, made from left over surplus cotton from the shirt production

You might have noticed the Saywood Scrunchies, the Heidi Headband and the Ruffle Cushion. These pieces were all made from our post-production leftovers. And the trick with these was to cut them in straight panels so as not to create extra offcuts. Sometimes zero waste means working to a specific format. In clothing, this can make it really quite fun, but a challenge at the same time. For shirts, we do need a bit of shaping in the armholes, sleeve heads, and necks to create a well fitting piece, but we use up as much of that cloth as we can. Our factories work to create lay plans, so that the pattern pieces fit together in as tight a jigsaw as they can manage. And this is why we love that our factories put any small bits of waste to good use. There is another use for everything (well, pretty much everything!)

Home Textiles Saywood Ruffle Cushion from deadstock, in red check with a lilac frill edge. The cushion is placed on a navy velvet sofa, with a blue tall lamp and picture from visible

Saywood Ruffle Cushion, deadstock textile for your home

So before you throw out any unwanted offcuts of fabric, maybe from a home sewing project, or some old tea towels or bed sheets, think about what you could use them for. Maybe a few scrunchies, a mask or a lavender eye mask - ooo deadstock for relaxation! - or maybe you want to upcycle it and give an old t-shirt a new lease of life with some patchwork. No offcut is too big or too small to find another use for it. Just like the boxes of buttons some of us collect, just in case we lose one, a box of offcuts is also handy! Patching up your favourite jeans… the possibilities are endless!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.