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Color Me Natural

1_PULSE_DYES.jpgStepping hesitantly into the world of eco fashion because of the color issue? Feeling like there aren’t enough hue options offered, or wondering if those brighter colors really are eco friendly? Greening the dyeing process of their garments is indeed one of the hardest nuts to crack for eco conscious brands. Many of them dive into natural dyes nowadays: a good reason to take a closer look at this process.

Natural dyes are dyes primarily obtained from sources found in nature. Did you know, for example, that a great source for natural dyes can be found right in your own backyard? It’s not surprising—roots, nuts and flowers are just a few common ways to get many colors like yellow, orange, blue, red, green, brown and grey.

But away from the do-it-yourself talk, history shows that natural coloring has been serious business for thousands of years. Old manuscripts reveal that around 3.000 BC, people in China and India used plant-based materials to dye their clothing. Explorer Vasco da Gama consolidated this knowledge through the maritime route, which commercialized natural dyes like saffron and indigo. At the same time, in 1500 AD, Spanish conquistadores found textile products in the Americas that had been colored with the red extract of the cochonilla. With the invention of the first synthetic color dye in 1856, natural coloring became less popular until the 1990’s, when several countries prohibited the use of chemical dyes and environmental concerns aroused renewed interest in natural coloring.

Eber Lopes Ferreira is an expert when it comes to natural dyeing. He wrote a book on natural coloring with sources from Brazilian flora. ‘The biggest problem with using natural dyes is the fixation of the colors’ he says. Even though the dyes might be plant based, companies often use toxic mordants to fix them. And even then, colors are often less permanent, more difficult to apply and they wash out more easily. In general, the color possibilities are far more limited than synthetic dyes.

Low-impact, fiber-reactive dyes have become the dye of choice for many organic clothing manufacturers who want a diverse palette of vibrant colors. Undyed and color-grown fabrics are the best choice for people who react to fiber-reactive dyes or who want only pure fabrics on their skin. And although natural colored cotton grows in beautiful shades of beige, chocolate and mauve, hot pinks and sunshine yellows are far from available as yet.

Our advice for the color fetishist, then, is to mix and match with colored second hand pieces, items from before-you-greened-your-closet or to take up natural dyeing as a hobby!


Corantes naturais da flora brasileira

Comments (3)Add Comment
written by Laurie Stephenson, June 16, 2008
The most beautiful of all colors come from mother nature.
Natural Dyes
written by Sarah Grieve, May 07, 2010
I'm a textile student in Hong Kong and as part of my course I need to write an essay, the topic I have chosen is comparison between the aesthetics of chemical and natural dyes. So I was wondering if you know of any any clothing companies that use natural dyes. As I have tried looking and most companies are using organic cotton instead of natural dyes.
written by tommy, May 23, 2010
I like your idea ...
I hope she succeed ... and I would definitely support it!

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