Monday, April 9, 2012

Dyes, Colours and Spring!

It's been awhile since my last post but those of you who know me know that I have not abandoned green endevours.

I recently came across this video posted by a high school friend of mine on Facebook (Thank you @Kali Carys for posting!) and I thought it would be a great way to ease back into blogging. Click here for the video: DIY dyes from your kitchen & garden: magic of living colo(u)r.

It doesn't have all the details you might need for actually dying your own fabrics but it's a great source of inspiration to get you thinking about dyes and natural colours in a different way.

This peaked my interest because I took part in organizing and chairing a panel discussion about Corporate Social Responsibility in the textile industry back in December 2011. We invited panelists from the industry, from the academic community, from the consumer association of Finland, etc. After turning over all the metaphorical rocks there were to be turned on the issue, paniking about all the environmental and human rights issues, as well as other externalities, I wonder if any of the class' participants felt that the panel had really answered their questions or calmed their fears. I, for one, felt more overwhelmed than ever, albeit grateful for the chance to learn more about the indutry and perhaps conduct some of my own research.

One of the most memorable questions I remember asking the panelists, and which was answered by the representative of the textile and fashion industry went a little something like this:
"Generally speaking, the textile industry is chemically intensive. The chemicals are used in the process of dyeing fabrics, printing and finishing the clothes, which pollutes bodies of water around the factories. The latest Greenpeace report states that as much as 70% of the rivers, lakes and reservoirs in China are affected by water pollution and hormone disrupting chemicals were found, discharged from factories and which can be hazardous at low levels. One devastating effect of these chemicals can be that they accumulate up in the food chain.

This may sound like a naïve question but is there a possibility to remove all the hazardous chemicals from the production?
Can you comment on how H&M plans to remove 80% or all of chemicals by 2020?"

Funny enough, I don't recall an answer to the question but just the beginning of the answer: "Practically speaking, the clothing industry is a chemical industry..."

Granted, I was standing on a stage trying to listen and plan how the next question would go but for me to remember exactly what was said, I would have to watch the video. Overall, and as you can probably tell by my memory, the answer was disheartening and not necessarily what I had wished to hear. That being said, and if you've already watched the video above, you might be smiling because I did eventually get an answer to the question. Yes it is possible and yes, some companies are doing it! Not just in less damaging way, by not dumping the waste straight into rivers and dying light colours first then adding darker colours to the same water but instead by just using plants and natural dyes.

In any case, I was exciting to have found such an informative and inspiring video. Not necessarily because I'm going to start dying my own clothes in the 4m2 bathroom of my apartment building (well why not!?) but because it gives you an appreciation for people who are doing it and who are sharing their passion through their own businesses. If anything, I get the feeling that if we all play a small role in conserving the world's natural resources and helping one another do it, we'd start to feel more interconnected than ever before.

For more about the label mentioned in the video, check out Adie+George.


  1. Yeah the chemicals in our clothes SUCK. I mean, it's in our clothes, that we keep close to our bodies. Isn't it mostly anti-flamables and anti-fungi chemicals? In that case, couldn't they change the production conditions instead? Buying clothes from alternative producers and second hand are some options, but the transparency to the origins of the fabric is usually lacking. At least with second hand clothes, one gets less chemicals and reduces the ecologic footprint of that garement.

    1. Very true; and it's pretty scary when you start to think about it. One of our teachers for the panel course was telling us about a friend of hers who developped an allergy to nickel from her pants. Basically, all the little shiny metalic buttons on your pants are made of nickel and it's not meant to have full-time contact with your skin. Basically her allergy was so bad she couldn't open door handles or touch some basic objects without gloves. I'll admit that story made me wear an undershirt and tuck it in all winter long to keep the nickel off my skin.

      On a sidenote, I wanted to share a link of a company who has found one way of tackling some of the lack of information in the clothing industry. Patagonia tries to be as transparent as possible in its supply chain and even list where they think they would improve. It's not directly related to the story above but it gives you hope that some companies are considering more than just design when making their clothes:

  2. Very interesting! Chemicals are in everything these days and it is so disheartening. And you never really think about it until someone points it out. But you start to look at your surroundings in an entirely different way. Awareness is a huge step and a continual process. This post reminds me of a program I watched about an artist in Japan who dyes clothes with all natural dyes developed from plants. It's encouraging to know what beautiful things we can create naturally, and I smile to think of you in your 4m2 bathroom trying it out!! :) - Lauren

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lauren! I have to admit though, I haven't tried this out yet though I do hope to have to pleasure of seeing how some of this stuff works first-hand. I started growing some basil in my balcony so we'll see if any colourful plants can be next ;)

      If you come across that Japaneses artist's link, feel free to send it this way!