Beyond Indigo – 5 More Natural Dyes
With denim grabbing the spotlight in the heritage fashion arena, it comes as no surprise that indigo often gets top billing when it comes to dye recognition. Natural indigo dye, in particular, has gained a lot of attention in recent years, with many brands working this traditional dye into their roster of denim goods.
But the world of natural dyes is by no means limited to the indigo blues—there’s a whole world of other dyes out there, all plucked from the earth. Today, we’re outlining four more natural dyes that you can use to dunk your duds.
1. Kakishibu (Persimmon)
Kakishibu is a traditional Japanese dyeing method which uses the juice of fermented, unripe persimmon fruit to create a tannin that will dye anything from textiles to wood and leather. Kakishibu dye is often subtle and irregular, with distinct shades that range from muted orange to burnished brown. It’s this inconsistency that makes Kakishibu synonymous with the Japanese idea of Wabi-Sabi—the art of finding beauty in imperfection. Persimmon tannins are also known to have antibacterial and water-resistant properties, which makes Kakishibu a good option for undergarments.
Japanese denim label, Samurai, used Kakibishu for a limited edition jean back in 2012, the S5000KA. They applied the natural dye to their exclusive 24oz. denim, which resulted in a light brown cast that almost mimics the color of duck canvas.
In the same way that grass can stain your shoes or your clothes, it can also be used to color whole garments. By concentrating the green pigment in the grass, deft practitioners can achieve a range of subtle green tones. Those tones are often so subtle that grass dye can be mixed with other dyes to achieve a subdued green cast.
Far from conventional, it comes as no surprise that the eccentric Japanese brand Kapital used this method when dyeing their No. 4 raw denim jeans.
While some natural dyes are more subtle than their artificial counterparts, carrot dye can yield a rich orange color that perfectly resembles the root vegetable. However, it is difficult to achieve a strong color, therefore this dyeing process is rarely seen.
It takes the artisanal production of a brand like Tender Co. to pull off this dyeing technique, and they nailed it with their carrot-dyed Hand-Linked Socks.
The root of the Common Madder plant can be used to create a red dye. The plant’s roots are dried, chopped, and mixed with water and calcium carbonate (chalk) to form a dye bath, which can then be used to color yarns in a variety of red shades—all the way from rosy pink to hot red.
Raleigh Denim used Madder to dye this pair of their Jones Trouser. In this instance, the natural dye has produced a rich burgundy tone, which has taken to the canvas well with rich, even coverage.
Dorozome is a mud-dyeing technique that originates from the Japanese Amami Islands. A preliminary dye is made by boiling the wood of trees indigenous to the Amami region. After soaking in this initial dye bath, the yarns or garments are soaked in iron-rich mud to initiate a chemical reaction that extracts the colors from the mud and locks them into the fabric. Different tones can be achieved—including jet black—but rusty browns and dark greys are the most common.
This ancient dyeing technique is completely sustainable, but requires the work of skilled artisans to effectively carry out the steps. Studio D’artisan released their ‘Amami Dorozome’ collection back in 2017, which included a duo of mud-dyed loopwheeled hoodies.