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From the Floor Series: Fabric

December 13, 2017

From the Floor Series: Fabric

Photography by Rita McNeill, words by Ellen Tirant

Our From the Floor Series provides insight into what we do at Dorsu, how and why. Following a brand is one thing, knowing how that brand’s product is made, by who and under what conditions is different.


Cambodia has a large and pervasive garment industry, employing over 700,000 workers and accounting for approximately 80% of the country’s total export revenue (Better Factories Cambodia). It’s a huge industry with significant impact across the entire country. Masses of clothing are produced and distributed globally, for the likes of global fashion brands such as Inditex (Zara), H&M, GAP, Levi’s, Adidas and more. 

As Cambodia is not a producer of fabric, fabric is sourced from all over the world and imported for production. Due to the nature of ‘fast fashion’ itself, production is fast, responsive to immediate trends and enormous in scale. Every day, huge amounts of fabric are deemed unusable by brands for reasons such as incorrect or oversupply of fabric, last minute changes in production schedules or the sheer need to switch to a new product or colour based purely on changing trends. 

This fabric becomes what we know as remnant fabric, or end-of-roll fabric and it is sold on to a local supply industry in Cambodia, bought and used, rather than wasted or dumped into landfill. 


Remnant fabric defined

Remnant fabric is left-over, unused or unwanted rolls of fabric in its original condition. 

Factories sell their remnants to local suppliers, who sort, store and sell the fabric onto buyers all over Cambodia. And that’s where we come in. We physically search through supplier warehouses to find fabrics that meet our quality and colour needs. It’s a long and arduous process, but well worth it when we find the perfect fabric!  

What this means

With remnant quite literally meaning ‘the part or quantity that is left after the greater part is used’ - limited amounts of the leftover rolls are available.

We can only purchase using what is available in the correct quality and colours to use for our collections. Some would call this a limitation, but we see it as exclusive. We buy what we can, sometimes it might be five hundred kilograms, other times one roll. We work our designs into what fabric we can find, and plan out collections to showcase the exclusive colours we were able to get our hands on. 

Prioritising our values around overproduction and overconsumption- we like to produce against demand, producing only small collections then adding more as we need. With our operations all under one-roof, we can be flexible to demand and ensure we only produce what we know will be sold and loved.


We seek fabrics with a full cotton count which can be difficult due as the true origin of remnants most often unknown and untraceable. So we burn test samples by cutting a small piece and lighting it. If it burns like paper it is cotton (a natural fibre) whereas if the fabric melts, like plastic, it has a synthetic fibre content. We’ve done this so frequently that we most often know if a fabric contains synthetic fibres just by touch. As a rule though, we burn everything before purchasing to rule out any options that don’t burn as a pure cotton content. 

The pros & cons 

We know our fabric has limitations, especially in respect to knowing the true origin. We choose to work with remnant fabric because it allows us to keep our supply chain incredibly short and we are using an existing product, rather than creating demand for the production of MORE fabric. One of the founding principles of Dorsu was to adapt and constantly strive to do the best as possible. As we grow you will see the introduction of other fabrics sourced through partnerships across the world. Our end goal is to create a variety of collections using diverse fabric sourced from global partners - watch this space.

A Viral Campaign 

We were lucky to join forces with a team of creatives and advocates to develop a masterpiece in support of raising awareness of overconsumption and waste in the apparel industry.  In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a factory was found piled high with clothing and fabric left behind from the previous inhabitants. Thousands of kilos, dumped. Photographer Von Wong and Pete DeMarco Photography, activist Laura A. François, filmmaker A.Todd Smith with the help of Dorsu- used this fabric to create a viral campaign. 2500kg of clothing and 1000 volunteer hours later, Worship Your Clothes was born. 


See more at Worship Your Clothes. 

Our From the Floor Series features: Design | Fabric | Production | Team

Questions? Please comment below or contact hello@dorsu.org


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