Many in the ethical fashion movement have heard the saying “you know what the next season’s colour is by what colour the rivers run in China”. This is one aspect of the fashion industry that is hard to ignore since it has disastrous effects on our ecosystem and is easily spotted, which is why many brands are turning to eco-dyes that have minimal impact on the environment, and in particular natural plant dyes.
Natural dye is not a new concept of course. Before synthetic dyes were introduced in the 1800s dyes were made from natural fibres like vegetables, minerals, flowers, roots and even insects. However, the perfectionist species that humans are, turned to synthetic dyes that allowed for consistent hues and intensity of colours that natural dyes couldn’t possibly achieve. Colour accuracy was further enhanced with the use of computer colour matching to achieve identical colours batch to batch.
Now hundreds of years later and with our common sense kicking back in, brands are starting to utilise eco-friendly natural dyes once again in a bid to reverse the overwhelming damage the fashion industry has done to our environment. Furthermore, eco-dyes adhere to natural fibres effectively which adds another layer of sustainability to the pieces.
We wrap up some of the brands on our radar favouring eco-dyes over synthetic:
Utilising one of the planet’s most eco-friendly fibres hemp, one that uses no pesticides and consumes little water while regenerating the soil as it grows, Spirit Natural Clothing is a workwear-inspired clothing project based on a biodynamic farm in southern New Southern Wales. The brand utilises plant dyes to colour their jeans and tees and encourages consumers to repair and experiment with their own plant dyes to refresh their items.
You can also watch a snippet of their dying process online in their mini-documentary below.
2. La Luna Rose
This label that began in 2014 is known for their jewellery designs made using 99% recycled silver to a closed-loop manufacturing system to eliminate waste and to keep unused materials constantly in use. But just last month La Luna Rose launched their first line of clothing, a capsule collection of clothing and accessories made from natural fabrics including ramie and linen.
Maintaining her commitment to sustainable and slow fashion, founder and designer Rosie Shelton has used plant-based fabrics which have been hand dyed using traditional and natural processes.
With a small-scale production to ensure full control over quality and the protection of her workers and an intimate team in Bali, Shelton uses a hands-on process of eco-dyeing. Colourants have been derived from a range of tree leaves, which are harvested, dried, mulched and cooked to create a ‘syrup’ of dye that results in a brighter pigment.
“It has been wonderful to collaborate with this local community of artisanal dyers in Bali for this collection. I was so inspired by the traditional dyeing processes and am thrilled to offer an organic, natural apparel component for the La Luna Rose girl that she can cherish for seasons to come,” said Rosie Shelton, La Luna’s founder and designer.
In collaboration with traditional local artisans in rural Indonesia, RUPAHAUS create products using natural materials and dyes. The local artisans use a traditional colouring method and equatorial sun basking process to achieve the shades in the garments. Sun basking involves determining the most optimal times in the day with maximum sun exposure to create stronger colour hues.
The Australian label believes that tradition is the core to any culture and should not be left to vanish with time, each piece is made to reveal the story of the artisans behind the traditions and culture, with no two pieces being the same. Along with their efforts to preserve cultural heritage, a percentage of their profits are reinvested back into the community to support the artisans and Indonesia’s local economy.
Monsoon Blooms go one step further with their use of eco-dyes using a traditional plant-based cloth colouring technique known locally as Ayurvastra; a Sanskrit word loosely translating to ‘healthy clothing’. Utilising the wisdom of India’s natural medicine, Ayurvastra takes a concoction of plants, barks, roots and herbs, and boils them with fabric and controlled temperatures, ready to be worn, absorbed by the skin, and ingested into the body. Their garments are made using fair trade organic cotton and the brand is also transparent about their supply chain; customers can read about their garments’ journey from farm to front door as well. Read more about Monsoon Blooms here.
We’d love your recommendations of other brands working in this natural dye space so make sure to give them a shout out in the comments section.
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Inspired to shop responsibly? Keen to vote with your dollars? Check out our resources page for a comprehensive list of ethical and sustainable brands.