Growing up in post-Soviet Russia, Elena Beglarian always thought of fashion as “something that was far far from me,” she said. When she and Karen moved to France, their first thought was not Paris Fashion Week, but making enough money to support their growing family. While Elena raised their children, Karen worked on an assembly line and had a series of failed businesses, exporting French pastry equipment and importing fish from Norway among them. Their fashion journey only began in 2018, when a friend back in Russia asked for help sourcing French fabrics. Their first shipping center was their apartment.
“It was very difficult in the beginning,” Karen remembered. While Italian mills and brands are known for being commercial, “the French are much more conservative,” he said, and nobody wanted to sell to him. “I call 10, 15, 30 times to every single supplier,” he went on, “and then, one by one, we started to find suppliers to find more fabrics to sell.”
At another work station, Karen showed me how each roll of fabric is tagged with composition and other technical specs and then photographed from afar and close-up to capture the patterns and texture. His workers even shoot videos of each fabric to show clients the way it drapes and moves. “Even the sound is important,” he said.
Every Monday, the company uploads a drop of around 200 fabrics to their catalog of over 3,500 offerings. “When the newsletter comes out it feels like a bit of a race to the shopping cart,” said artist and designer Winston Chmielinski, who first began compulsively ordering fabrics from Beglarian in 2022 because of the quality and affordability compared to what he was used to buying at Mood in New York. “Here, I have my pick of one-of-a-kind textiles for unbelievably low prices,” he said, “so it still feels like a secret.”
Other customers explained how using deadstock fabrics had become a part of their brand identity. “When [customers] hear the background story, they appreciate the ideas behind using deadstock fabric,” said Ali Abdul-Rahim, founder of Amsterdam-based brand Mai-Gidah. “It feels better to use something that was already there, and turn it into a garment that will be worn and loved by someone instead of using even more resources.”
And those resources are being used up at an astonishing pace. The fashion industry is estimated to produce up to 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, not to mention the water usage and chemical pollution. A recent sustainability progress report by WRAP showed that despite improvements in manufacturing efficiency, companies are making so many more clothes that the climate benefits have been wiped out.
“We have to start to reduce this to change our consumption habits and attitude,” Karen told me. “This is like a bubble,” he continued. “We’re close to the limit.”
If deadstock can play a small role in making the fashion industry more sustainable, the Beglarians are happy to help. And as virgin materials like cashmere and wool get more expensive and demand for deadstock continues to grow, Karen sees the future only getting brighter. Still, he hopes for a day when the industry has reduced waste by so much that there isn’t enough leftover fabric to resell, even if it eventually puts him out of business. “For me, it will be enough,” he said.