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Exploring the Use of Natural Dyes for Sustainable Fashion


Sustainable fashion is becoming an increasingly popular topic as people become more aware of the environmental impact of our clothing. Sustainable fashion is a movement that focuses on producing and purchasing clothes in ways that are environmentally responsible, ethical, and economical. 

It takes into account the materials used, manufacturing methods employed, and how the garment will be worn and disposed of in the future. This approach not only aims to reduce environmental damage but also promotes social justice in production and labour practices.

One of the ways that sustainable fashion is being pushed forward is through the use of natural dyes. Natural dyes are made from plant and animal materials, and they are gradually replacing chemical dyes which require a lot of energy to produce and release harmful toxins into our environment.

What Are Natural Dyes?

Natural dyes are dyes that are derived from natural sources such as plants, vegetables, fruits, seeds, mineral compounds, and insects. They were the only type of dye for clothing until the invention of synthetic dyes in the 1800s. Natural dyes can be used to produce a range of colours, from blues, greens, and yellows to browns, reds, and purples. 

They are often less toxic than synthetic dyes and can be made from renewable resources that don’t damage the environment. Additionally, natural dyes can also protect the skin from sun damage to a certain extent as they provide higher UV absorption in the fabrics they are used on.

Benefits of Natural Dyes

The main benefit of using natural dyes is that they are environmentally friendly. Natural dyeing processes don’t require the use of harsh chemicals and toxic additives, so they are not as damaging to our environment. Mordants are needed to bind natural dyes to fabrics but most sustainable fashion labels use safe mordants and not metallic mordants. 

Using natural dyes can still involve a significant amount of water, but numerous fashion houses use practices to reduce water use. Waterways also become less polluted if natural dyes are used in textiles. This also makes it possible to recycle wastewater as it won’t contain any harmful pollutants. 

Natural dyes are also less likely to cause any allergic reactions when they come into contact with skin. They even have antimicrobial properties, making them safe for both kids and adults. Many natural dyes also have a deodorising effect, thanks to their resistance to bacteria. 

Additionally, natural dyes offer a range of hues and can be used to create unique effects and shades in textiles. Clothing made with natural dyes won’t have the exact same colours, allowing you to own pieces that are uniquely yours.

Using natural dyes is also beneficial to the local communities where they are produced, as their production creates employment opportunities and provides a source of income. This helps promote economic growth in these regions and can help reduce poverty.

What Materials Are Used to Make Natural Dyes?

Natural dyes can be derived from a variety of materials. The shade and saturation level of the natural dye varies, based on the plant, fruit, or flower chosen to make the dye. The technique used to make the dye matters as well. Some of the most common materials used to make natural dyes are:

  • Red and pink: fresh beets, powdered beetroot, pomegranates, red and pink rose petals, avocado pits
  • Orange: carrots, turmeric, butternut seeds, or husk
  • Yellow: marigold, sunflower petals, paprika, celery leaves, onion skins
  • Green: spinach, mint leaves, lilacs, artichokes
  • Indigo: purple cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, black beans

Final Note

Natural dyes are becoming increasingly popular due to their environmentally friendly production process. Using natural dyes helps the environment by reducing waste and toxic substances in the ecosystem. It also creates employment opportunities in local communities and industries, helping promote economic growth and financial stability. For these reasons, natural dyes are a great option for those looking to create sustainable fashion.

Imani Jackson

Imani Jackson is a writer born, raised, and based in South London. She developed a keen eye for style through her habit of observing people’s clothes in the street every day. When she isn’t doing that, she likes to spend her time writing about the trends she sees, going out and dancing with the girls, or curating her R&B playlist for the next round of people-watching.

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