Indigo dye is magic. I’m not a chemist, so I don’t quite yet understand the reactions that are happening in the vat (the bucket of dye). But I do understand indigo’s allure, and its pure playfulness and joy!
I’ve been wanting to move Purusha back into organic territory for a long time, and I finally got the balls to do it once I discovered indigo dye.
Botanical plant dyes are really beautiful, and obviously better for the environment than synthetic dyes, but I just couldn’t get past the fading aspect. It’s all romantic and wonderful to buy leggings hand dyed in sandalwood, until you wash them a few times and the pants have faded to beige. Then what? You get rid of the pants because they’re no longer that pretty peach shade you wanted. I can’t create a product like that. I want integrity and longevity. Eco fashion is big picture stuff, it’s not shortsighted. It’s not beige faded clothing.
But, back to indigo! Indigo is really cool because it’s one of the oldest pigments known to man (and woman). Its earliest date was in Peru 6000 years ago. It was super valuable back in the day because blue was such a unique color and hard to come by. Original organic indigo was used on denim for years, until it was created synthetically in a lab in the 1800s. Since then, real indigo dye use declined rapidly in favor of the cheaper and easier to use synthetic. (Btw, the synthetic is made with petroleum... soooo, no thanks!) I think most denim companies don’t even use synthetic indigo, but rather just a regular procion dye that’s the same shade.
This is what makes natural indigo special, it’s inability to be mass produced. If you’re purchasing something dyed in natural indigo, you’re supporting small farms that grow it (there’s a growing demand for it here in the states and some farms in Tennessee are even converting from tobacco to indigo!), and most likely, small artisans that are dyeing with it!
The use of indigo feels sacred, like you’re tapping into an ancient human ritual. You can’t rush it, you can’t take shortcuts. The style indigo vat I’m using is inspired by Graham Keegan. The ingredients are: pickling lime ( it’s also used in... pickling), iron, and organic indigo. That’s it! Unlike other natural dyes that require some harsh chemicals for the plants to bind to the fabric, and often a lot of electricity for heating the vats, indigo doesn’t need heat or chemicals! When the dye is exhausted (no pigment left), I simply dilute it with water and dump it in our garden as a fertilizer. It’s a closed loop; in other words, there’s no part of it that pollutes. It’s like the holy grail of dyes, there’s nothing else as natural. When I learned all this I knew Purusha had to go blue!
Plus, it doesn’t fade rapidly like other plant dyes. If it does fade, it’s like your worn-in jeans. It looks natural, and the fading is only in places that rub excessively. Denim jean companies do a lot of chemical treatments to get that pretty fade, but with real indigo dye that look comes naturally over time, showing the wear and experiences you’ve had in that garment. I love that. Your clothing should reflect you and your journey. Indigo dyed clothing is like the journal of your life, it records your experiences in the fiber. As a clothing designer that is just thrilling! Clothing that tells your story in the fibers... that’ll be for another post!
I JUST got into indigo a month or so ago, so I’m a beginner. Indigo doesn’t care though if you’re a beginner, it makes everyone using it look like an artist. I feel truly inspired when using it, and I look forward to learning more methods. For now, I’m just a tiny bit giddy to share with you what Nadya and I have created!
We have only a few organic cotton indigo pieces posted, and I’m putting up more this week! See The Indigo Collection HERE.
Much love and shades of indigo light,