In a recent conversation a client inquired: “We’re curious if you would be interested in buying back old drapes to be reused or recycled at your shop? We’ve got the old drapes from our last few tours hanging around our storage spot.  How much would you give us for them?”

This is in fact a question that we are frequently asked, and the answer isn’t always one that the client was hoping for. The short answer is – “$0.00 – We won’t buy them back”.

Unfortunately, our loss advisors and insurance company have for years now recommended against purchasing used drapery back from clients, irrelevant of the condition that they are in. Fabrics in public spaces need to meet national flammability test standards………..  One must consider that flame certifications have “expirations” on many fabrics, and also because storage and use conditions are out of our control – they are in fact a liability/risk more than a benefit for us. We can’t just “resell them” without going through testing and possibly retreating the items – at which point a future client is honestly better off with a fresh new and clean product.

In this wasteful world, it seems such a disappointment to just throw out these expensive and often still useable items – but do consider this – if you give them to your child’s school or a local non-profit theatre, and they have a fire, you may end up liable.

Many years ago, Sew What? Inc tried to design a model for a nonprofit organization to put used concert fabrics and draperies back into the market by donating into low income areas and venues without resources – but just could not get it to be something that could be covered in terms of insurance.

We agree – it IS a crying shame. So wasteful.  So when purchasing custom drapery, it is best not to look at it as having a “buy back” value – certainly you will likely end up disappointed if you approach it from a “what I can get for it after the tour” mindset.

Further questioning sometimes will ensue – because already the few pennies on the dollar are still calling: “But surely if we bought it as FR, it is still FR – right? So what’s the risk to us? YOU sold it to us – so isn’t it your problem?”

Well – firstly if there is a fire – we are all going to be implicated – and secondly as the rightful owner and previous user and the SELLER of the item, the liability stands in the hands of the client selling the goods.

As for the length of time something is flame retardant – Honestly there is no stock answer for FR certs.  You see a cert simply states that it passes at the time it is sold and WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO assuming it is used in conforming ways that don’t impact the textile.  Oil based fog juice – dust – pyro overspray – hairspray – paint –cleaning chemicals – all degrade the fabric’s ability to pass subsequent FR testing.  On a tour really it is a crap shoot. Unless you are prepared to pay to have the drapes tested (and possibly retreated) and then sell them with new current FR certificates, it really is a risk.

I have seen 15 and 21oz Encore pass when re-tested after several years.  I have also seen fabrics fail after a week of being on stage with pyro.

Honestly – it’s a shame to say it – but I would encourage any client to be cautious – the few hundred bucks that the band gets for the used drapes by selling them now won’t even begin to pay for the problems if there is a fire or a complaint about them down the line from the person who bought them or was gifted them without a clear understanding of the FR liabilities.

And that’s not to mention the bad publicity. No band or entity needs to be the bad guy after having tried to be the good guy………. It’s just not worth it.

Consider UPCYCLING – why not contract to have your old backdrops, stage drapes and tent walls sewn into collectible PURSES / TOTES and REUSEABLE GROCERY BAGS? So – you spend a little money to convert the textiles into saleable and collectible items – and then you can resell them as memorabilia merchandise on future tours!  This is a way cooler (and safer) approach – and while there is some cost to have the articles converted, you then get to sell them or give them to fans or friends – possibly make some money and not have the risk……….