Natural dyes

Posted by Melina Bernardini on

Intoxication with colour, sometimes subliminal, often fierce, may express itself as a profound attachment to landscape. It has been rightly said: Colour is the first principal of Place. - Ellen Meloy, from An Anthropology of Turquoise



Colour is the foundation of aesthetics. They signal to us an attraction, a warning, an essence that draws from us memories of experiences that could otherwise escape words. This elusive concept, visible through the magic of light, anchors us down to our senses and our sense of place. Which is why for us, colours and dyes are connected to our relationship with the natural world. Fashion is frequently inspired by nature. The beautiful plumage of exotic birds are mimicked on New York runways; fish and stones find their names stamped upon makeup and nail polishes; and the sleek furs of our mammalian cousins are devastatingly coveted for its softness and charm. At BIONDA, we strive to transparently draw together the positive influences of nature and our human creativity. Fashion does not need to harm the environment, yet it is as though we are surrounded by the noxious consequences of fast fashion: found in our oceans, in our air, and in our global communities. 

Most, if not all, fast fashion factories use synthetic dyes. They’re cheaper, they create uniformity of colour in thousands of fabrics, and they take less effort and material to produce boldness. But before the 18th century, dyes were made using natural resources and labours of love. These synthetic dyes are composed of toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead, chromium, copper, and benzine. It’s not liberating to think about these ingredients brushed up against our skin, hindering breathability and good karma. Imagine the workers who are handling these chemicals in a fast fashion environment on a massive scale. These toxic runoffs find their way into our oceans and drinking water, impacting the global south on a much bigger scale, forcing communities into an endless cycle of being overworked with deteriorating health. Colours are historically sacred visual imprints of individual and collective spirituality. So we think it’s paramount that we respect these beautiful visions and celebrate them in the most sustainable way: by using natural dyes. 

Natural dyes are colorants that are derived from plants, animals, and minerals. Resources that can be found in the forests or jungles or seas. They are biodegradable and non toxic, which is what we love. Antimicrobial properties that are in these dyes, thanks to the fruits and plants that they are extracted from, makes it safer for kids to wear, too. We want our clothes to celebrate your skin in a sensual experience of joy. What’s more is that natural dyes have higher UV absorption rates, so you can rest assured that as you lounge on the beach, the skin under our biodegradable and recycled fabrics is protected. Because each plant is unique, colours vary slightly with each piece, almost indiscernible to the naked eye, but who doesn’t love having an exclusive one off design? It reminds us of each sea shell we find on our beach trips - no one being exactly the same. We should all do what we can to ensure we are using non toxic alternatives in our daily lives, as well as a no waste lifestyle whilst enjoying its benefits. 

Natural dyes take a lot of time, love, and labour to produce. It’s why we’re proud of our slow fashion ethos, and truly believe that the best things take time to come to fruition. On top of using ECONYL for our clothes (recycled fishing nets and ocean plastic waste) we are dedicated to using 100% natural dyes in all our lines with organic cotton or linen. 

One of the oldest and most widely used natural dyes is Indigo, which can be found in South Asia and South America. The deep blues remind us of watery mysteries and air-like freedom. We love to use turmeric for the bold and bright yellows that feature on our pieces, with our pallets created to fit the languidness of the beach side. Eucalyptus leaves can create transient shades of shimmery gray, whilst iris roots and rusty nails can produce a deep, impenetrable black. It’s true, using rusty nails might not sound like a natural resource, but it ties in with our desire to reuse waste, thus eliminating it. 

Experimenting with colours forms the basis of exciting and relatable art. As creative beings, finding new ways to express our connection to the world is a catalyst for positive change. A reminder that we’re all in this together and there’s always new things to discover. So we try our best to source natural dyes from the landscape our family run and intimate production sites are. The natural pigments found in the plant life of South America, which is where one of our beloved families run their traditional fabric factories, are the vibrant indigo, lichens, and chapi plants.

The future is exciting. We haven’t discovered the depth of what we can use in a sustainable manner to dye our fabrics. The possibilities are endless, with individual colours merging to create new shades of calm or sensuality. We are part of a curious collective, one that draws on the positives of human impact, rejecting the notion that human and nature are separate. For thousands of years, indigenous Americans dedicated time and energy to learn about the plants and animals they would use for their food and clothing. Balance can be found in our day to day. Let not the fast fashion overwhelm you into a dark corner of hopelessness. Where there is potential for sustainable and ethical practice, there is potential for great change and a better quality of life for us all. 

← Older Post