Inspiring colour editorial from MIX Magazine


It is now well established that the textile and fashion industry’s use of chemical dyes is a major polluter. This knowledge has inspired many young creatives to explore alternatives using natural materials and traditional processes, returning to more authentic and sustainable products. These creatives propose a new approach to colours, endorsing the potential of a natural palette.



Reconnecting with ancient practices and knowledge can offer up an opportunity to rediscover heritage. In Matrilineal Mythologies, Bulgarian-British artist Katrina Wilde experiments with natural dyes, looking to the women in her family who work with textiles and plants. Working closely with her grandmother's herbal, healing recipes, Wilde used the same plants and translated them into natural pigments. For Wilde, the best way forward is to look back at what we’ve learnt in the past. 

“I’m interested in materials as non-verbal storytellers and oral traditions of recipe sharing, which is common in Bulgaria, at least in my family.” 



Ancient practices and a deep respect for nature can be found worldwide. In Japan, the work of Satoko Okashi and her brand Sachaluna, reflects this notion well. Okashi uses plants, branches and abandoned flowers to create textile dyes mirroring the seasons. 

“In Japan, where I live, plants change rapidly in spring, summer, autumn and winter. Every scene is beautiful. I gather different plants each season and transfer them to cloth or paper for life”. 

Okashi’s next project is collaborating with a friend in Peru, working with plants from the Rainforest. The goal is to share knowledge of natural dyeing and support the local community by making natural products for local people to sell.



Localism is also a powerful driver for natural dyeing processes. In the project Inflaxuation, designer Cassie Quinn creates textiles utilising materials from crop rotation at an Irish farm called Mallon Linen. Quinn uses traditional native plants from the area to make dyes with various materials all made in the most natural way; fabrics are mordanted and then placed into a dye bath. The leather dyeing process is applied during the coating stages, allowing for less water usage and pigment weight but a more vibrant finish. Bio-sequins are then coloured using wastewater from the fabric dye.

“I believe it’s important to consider what is local to the area of production as well as dyes being a natural source. Natural dyeing is an ancient process that we need to bring into the future.” 



While practices may be ancient, communication is not. Social media facilitates local processes to be shared and imitated across the world. This knowledge is enhanced and becomes both local and global. Designer Julia Jueckstock explains: 

“Building awareness around what’s possible is critical in moving individuals, companies and entire industries away from creating negative environmental impact; social media is an amazing platform for that type of education. Too often we keep silos between disciplines (biology, design, digital computation). I quickly learned that these are just different lenses through which to explore and share the things that we are all fascinated by. They’re meant for everyone, and social media helps rid us of society-ingrained boundaries.”



Jueckstock is part of a new wave of designers pushing collaboration with nature further by exploring the field of biology. In the project, Hyphae Hues, Jueckstock uses fungi to grow colour onto textiles. With this specific organism, pigments can be controlled to range within the quadrant of the colour wheel that spans yellow, orange, red and violet by controlling and modifying the temperature and the pH of the nutrients. The patterns can be self-organised by the fungi or manipulated through traditional methods, such as screen printing or stamping.



Whether it’s from traditional or innovative practice, the message is to reconnect with nature and learn from it. American artist, Amanda de Beaufort encourages people to slow down and become one with natural cycles. The artist, who created the brand a_db botanical color, grows botanical plants in her dye garden during the summertime and then harvests them.



Reconnecting with nature also teaches us resilience. Being sustainable is not about having everything we want when we want it; it is about respecting cycles and imperfection. Natural dyes don’t deliver the same results as chemical ones but still have value. De Beaufort explains,

“When you compare a naturally to a conventionally dyed item, you will see a subtlety and depth to the colours that conventional chemical dyes cannot achieve. Botanical dyes are living colour.”



MIX Magazine is a quarterly print and digital publication by our creative agency, Colour Hive and is available as part of Colour Hive Membership.

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Credits from top: Katrina Wilde | Katrina Wilde | Satoko Okashi | Cassie Quinn | Julia Jueckstock | a_db botanical color, photo Anna Herbst Photography | Amanda de Beaufort, photo Claire Weiss | Satoko Okashi