Thr3efold’s Plan to Change the Way Designers Deal in Deadstock

You’ve already heard from countless Spirit of 608 guests that the fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to the planet’s global waste issue. For more on how this happens and a business solution that can help (because you know how much we love a business answer to a social problem), we’re turning to Jessica Kelly of Thr3efold.

The New York-based matchmaker for fashion brands seeking ethical manufacturers, Kelly’s Thr3efold recently debuted Deadstock District, a private portal that allows fashion designers to buy and sell fabric inventory instead of letting it turn into textile waste.

Thr3efold’s Jessica Kelly, founder of Deadstock District

Read on as Jessica gives us the lowdown on solving part of fashion’s waste problem by turning one designer’s fabric liability into another’s eco-minded resource.

Tell us a little about the Thr3efold mission. How are you helping brands make more ethical choices?

We help brands make products ethically. We do this by connecting brands to ethical factories around the world and by helping them sell their fabric liability and source deadstock fabric from each other.

Where did the inspiration for Deadstock District come from?

Deadstock District came from a conversation with a designer friend of mine. We were having coffee and she was complaining how they’re only a few seasons old and are already having to look into storage options for their leftover fabric since their Manhattan studio is small but fabric minimums are big. She wished she had a place where she could sell it.

What is a fabric liability?

Fabric liability is basically left over fabric. A brand might have to buy hundreds or thousands of yards depending on the mill’s minimum order quantity. After their production season is over and they are no longer using that specific pattern, they are stuck with the leftovers. This fabric liability either sits around collecting dust and taking up space or it gets incinerated so it isn’t used by any other brand. The issue is waste. Wasted water, labor, and natural resources that were used to create this fabric for nothing and any environmental footprint it left without ever being used. Fashion has a large textile waste issue and a lot of the fabric we used today that is some form of poly blend (polyester is made from petroleum) which does not decompose for a really really really long time. So throwing it away, and incinerating it aren’t great options. Why not find ways to give it use and a home so we don’t need to make more.

Is deadstock for everybody? What kinds of apparel brands are ideal candidates for sourcing and working with deadstock fabric?

Yes! Purchasing deadstock fabric is best for medium to small brands who purchase smaller quantities of fabric each season.  Keep in mind, deadstock is best as a regular part of your fabric sourcing strategy, but probably won’t be your only strategy. You may still need to buy new fabric or want to create custom prints, but deadstock can save you money and lessen waste so is a valuable option brands should consider. We are currently having meetings with large American brands to help facilitate finding a new home for their extensive fabric liability. Since most of their fabric liability sits in their factory in Asia, it’s best to do custom brokered deals for them in order to find a brand with a factory nearby so we can ship local.

Any tips or advice for brand who want to incorporate deadstock fabric into their product assortment? What do we nee to know before taking the plunge?

Sourcing deadstock is going to compare most to second hand shopping. You can find really incredible, high quality pieces for a really low price however it is not guaranteed and the stock changes constantly. Start looking at Deadstock District regularly! For any larger quantities of fabric (like whole rolls) be prepared to pay for shipping. The fabric we list on Deadstock District will be in the United States and our custom deals will be overseas or large quantities.  If you don’t see what you’re looking for let us know with the feedback survey at the bottom of the page so we can find it for you.

If you could change one thing about the fashion and apparel industry, what would it be?

That the top executives would stop prohibiting change because “this is how it’s always been done.” Fashion is the largest labored industry in the world and everyone consumes it, which means we are also responsible for some of the biggest environmental issues as well. This means it is our responsibility to create an exit strategy for 100% of our product, to be diligent in how we employ the people making it, AND to educate our consumers on how to dispose of it just as much as how to style it. There are so many people working in fashion who want to see change but often they are entirely removed from any real decision making and these top executives need to start educating themselves and taking responsibility for the role they play.

Anything else we should know?

We can do this! Never before has there been so much passionate chatter about changing our industry and the future is looking bright. My favorite thing about fashion is that not only are we the largest labored industry (1 in 6 people work in fashion) but 80% of garment workers are women (and I’d take a stab at 80% of corporate employees are women too) so I’m convinced that fashion is the largest vehicle for female empowerment and opportunity around the world. Want to really help global female equality? Get to work in ethical fashion.
Images courtesy of Thr3efold


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