University of The Arts London. London College of Fashion. Autumn term, dates tbc. September 2013
Appointed to lecture and lead a workshop making sustainable textiles using Shibori and Woad blue.
Appointed to lecture and lead a workshop making sustainable textiles using Shibori and Woad blue.
Undertaking research work on Blue Woad with Denise Lambert from Bleu de Lectoure
Appointed lecturer of sustainable textiles for fashion.
The founder of Bouaginvillea Couture will be at Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia for a special afternoon of textiles. An event hosted by Dani and Donna Devaux. A selection of hand shibori dyed silk scarves will be on sale.
Invited to give a lecture and lead a workshop on sustainable fashion and textiles to students of the BA fashion and textiles degree course. An event organized by the respective course leaders and the Deputy Principal of Plymouth College of Art.
Invited to lecture on the making of Bougainvillea Couture and ”Slow” textiles for fashion. An event organized by the Study Abroad course Director.
Undertaking research work on Woad, courtesy of Denise Lambert.
Invited to present.
An article written by Jean Deane on the work of Bouganvillea Couture’s founder Luiven Rivas-Sanchez is published. The Journal is distributed world wide.
Attended a debate on design for sustainability in Higher Education with interesting questions put across to a selective panel of speakers including CFS Director Dilys Williams, Dr. Kate Fletcher and Leslie Raven. Call for changes within the educational system for a more flexible curricula that would be seen to encourage craft of use and practice within the industry was high on the agenda.
Invited to give a lecture and lead a workshop on sustainable fashion and textiles to students of the BA fashion and textiles degree course. An event organized by the respective course leaders and the Deputy Principal of Plymouth College of Art.
Was a key speaker on November 6th during this event organized by Hogeschool Van Amsterdam, Holland.
Invited to give a key lecture on the making of ”slow” fashion/textiles and Bougainvillea Couture. Event organized by the study abroad course director.
First in a series of workshops given by Bougainvillea Couture. Learn how to manipulate silks and make your own scarves by using ancient shibori techniques and natural dyestuffs. For information and to secure your space, please fill in the form available on the contact section of this website.
Selected to present
A “hands on” workshop using traditional methods of fabric manipulation using natural dyes organized by the study abroad course director.
For visuals and information, please fill in and submit your details by clicking the contact section of this website.
Attended a special two day woad worshop organized by Botanical Colors with Denise Lambert, co-founder of “Bleu de Lectore” from France.
Bougainvillea Couture’s work was illustrated during a presentation given by co-author and professor of sustainable textiles from California College of the Arts, Lynda Grose: “Design for Change” at a seminar organized by Parsons School for New Design during Parsons festival week.
Attended Li Edelkoort’s preview of new trend forecasts for Fall/Winter 2013-2014. ”ROMANTICISM” : The way we feel, an invitation provided by Parsons School for New Design.
Attended a one 2 one workshop with a UK shibori master and award winner.
The founder of Bougainvillea Couture LRS was a key speaker on the subject of ”water” for the creation of textiles as part of a sustainable forum organized by Sustinendi from London, hosted by Vola.
Lectured on sustainable colours in fashion and textiles: The making of “slow” sustainable couture. A lecture organized by the Study Abroad director.
Observed the way these colourful people hand tuft cloth for the making of their crafts in conjuction with local artists.
Invited to be part of Sustinendi, a webiste dedicated to sustainable issues affecting our ecosystems and society.
The video highlights my journey in the world of natural dyes up to date.
Invited to exhibit ”Bougainvillea Shibori” during 8iss in the Newbeat/Energy Nexus: Wearable Art travelling exhibition. Hong Kong Polytechnic between December 28th-January 2nd 2012. The exhibition will later be hosted by Foshan Municipal Bureau of Culture, Guangdung Province between February 11th-17th, 2012.
Invited to design and dye a range of sustainable coloured scarves and silks using “Aquarelle” natural dyes suitable for the fashion market. The ancient Japanese technique known as ”Shibori” resist will be creatively applied.
Invited to present a bespoke lecture on ”Bougainvillea Couture” and to run a natural dyes workshop using sustainable colours ideal for the fashion market with emphasis on trend forecasting.
Attended this wonderful workshop on Eco-literacy organized by Sasha Duerr founder of The Permacouture Institute in California.
Invited to run a natural dye workshop at CCA using sustainable colour palettes with emphasis on trends and forecast.
Commissioned to forecast a series of colour trend palettes for luxurious home furnishings, wraps, women’s tunics, summer shorts and men’s and women’s foulards for 2012/2013.
Lectured at the ”Amsterdam Fashion Institute” on E-Couture and sustainable colours in fashion and textiles.
Lectured on the use of natural dyes in contemporary Fashion and Textiles with emphasis on Couture at ISEND2011-Europe ”International Symposium and Exhibition on Natural Dyes”. An ensemble comprising of ”Dress and Gilet” especially designed by Deborah Milner, consultant designer to Alexander McQueen was showcased during this international event.
Invited to lecture on Natural dyes in Fashion and Textiles. This lecture has been postponed until November 2011.
Attended a trend presentation on colour, patterns, silhouettes, lifestyle, natural dyes and denim by Elderkoort inc; hosted by Emmanuelle Linard.
Took a one to one intense dyeing and fabric treatment workshop with Michele Wipplinger using extracts such as ”Rubia Tinctorium” (madder) and insect bearing dye “Dactylopius Coccus” (cochineal) on silks.
Research and writing continues
Research and writing continues.
Research and writing continues.
Attended a training workshop on a 1-2-1 basis using natural dyes and fabrics with Michele Wipplinger at her studios in Seattle.
Invited to talk to The Fashion Industry group of San Francisco Bay Area about natural dyes in Fashion and Textiles.
Invited to attend The Academy of Art University graduation fashion show to be held at Brannan Street.
Invited to attend the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce Fashion presentation being held at downtown Bastille.
Invited to attend the Global Action through Fashion gathering organized by VAGADU.
In the US since mid March 2010 continuing my research for a book I am writing on the use of natural dyes in Fashion and Textiles.
I was invited to attend a couple of fashion presentations not so long ago by Jeff Oakes from Metial in Downtown San Francisco. The one at Bastille was more like a social gathering for which a fee of $20 had to be paid, being new to San Francisco I succumbed to the charge and decided to join my culprit friend. After a couple of glasses of wine and a brief tour of the clothes on exhibit we decided to make our polite thank yous and good byes and headed down towards a disused building not far from The Civic Centre where the Eco-fashion presentation was being held. This time we did not have to pay the entrance fee thanks to Jeff’s quick thinking. It was more like a stalls market hall where sustainable fashion/recycled clothing was being promoted and sold alas without the glamour so thank you Jeff for suggesting an early escape in preference to food and drinks at LIME in the Castro.
A range of hand block printed and Indigo dyed mens ties have been especially designed and being sold at this prestigiuos shop in South West London during a special story organized by Priscilla Carluccio. The story needless to say is on Indigo blue, please check www.fewandfar.net for futher details.
Attended RAKSHA. International Seminars, Exhibitions and Workshops on Conservation of Textiles organized by Sutra.
Invited to give a talk to undergraduate and postgraduate students at The Institute of Craft and Design in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The subject was about my own personal experiences as a fashion/textile designer as well as natural dyes and crafts in fashion/textiles.
Attended a workshop on mud resist print using natural dyes including Indigo. This worshop was organised by Wonderful Workshops in London, UK.
Invited to attend an evening at The Textile Museum in Washington, DC to hear the story behind the innaguration dress worn by Michelle Obama. Panel members included fashion designer Isabel Toledo and her husband the illustrator Ruben Toledo.
Attending a gallery talk and tour on Contemporary Japanese fashion.
Invited to attend the reception evening to celebrate the exhibitions: Contemporary Japanese Fashion. The Mary Baskett Collection and Fabrics of Feathers and Steel: The Innovation of Nuno.
Attending Maiwa Symposium in Vancouver, Canada. October 12th-October 16th 2009.
Attending New York fashion Week from September 10th-september 17th 2009 Spring/Summer 2010 collections.
Commissioned to design the logo for the next International Symposium and Exhibition on Natural Dyes to be held in La Rochelle, France from April 24th-April 30th 2011.
Attended a two day dye workshop using Mulberry leaves, Cutch waste, Marigold, Anatto and Madder extracts as well as Madder root on Cotton Velvet, Silk Noil, Silk Gauze, Ramie and Linen at “The Duchy Centre for the Creative Arts” instructed by Jane Deane in Princetown, Devon. UK. August 15th-16th 2009.
Attended The National Design Awards “Design for tomorrow: The Future of Technology and Sustainability” guest speakers included Amory Lovings ( Design Mind Winner) and Bill Moggridge ( Lifetime achievement recepient and co-founder of IDEO) at the National Museum of American Indians. Washington, DC - July 24th 2009
Attended a three day workshop using natural dye extracts at “The Yarn Tree Arts Studio” instructed by Linda Labelle, the author of ” The yarn lover’s guide to Hand Dyeing”. Brooklyn, NY. July 17th/18th and 19th 2009.
During this visit I did a workshop using natural colorants and pigments.
Specialists in gold embroidery to the Fashion House of Chanel
Isend 2008. Attended this international symposium and exhibition where renowned experts and researchers participated, presented and discussed the latest advances and findings in the field of natural dyes.
The purpose of this site is to share with you my very own personal journey in the field of textile designing since graduating from Central Saint Martins in London in 1985. A road well travelled that has won me several international accolades and a place in the field of printed/embellished textiles. A Voyage that has not only transported me to fascinating places but also given me the opportunity to meet and work with incredible individuals most of whom are highly regarded and respected in the fashion and textile industry. As my passion for cloth and colour continues and my work and acumen in this fascinating field advances, I would like to be able to share it with you through my site. Enjoy!
When I phoned my friend Peter from Devon to find out where exactly Princetown was in Dartmoor we had a bit of a laugh as he informed me that it is well known for its prison!!! I joked that I would probably rent a cell for the night but as it happened they only glimpse I had of the place was when I was leaving the town!!!
I decided to book a two day workshop at “The Duchy Centre” after a tip from Jenny Balfour-Paul whilst I was in the US researching on Natural Dyes. This workshop was instructed by Jane Deane who is herself an accomplished yarn dyer, weaver and a lover of colour. After a brief discussion with Jane on what I would hope to achieve during this workshop, I decided that I would like to have a go at dyeing with Mulberry leaves (simply because I know that silk worms love it as I found out during my visit to Veneseda in Merida, Venezuela), Cutch waste, Marigold, Anatto and Madder as well as Madder root itself. Luckily Jane had scoured and pre-mordanted all the fabrics in order to save time. I soon found out that dyeing cloth is harder than dyeing yarns and the colours as a result are harder to obtain. However, I can gladly say that I successfully managed to obtain lovely colours out of Cutch, Marigold and Anatto as well as with some overdyeing using Madder in my favourites cotton velvet, silk gauze and ramie…the workshop was short and experimental, after all, this is what part of designing is about and I am sure Jane would back me up on this!!!
This I found an interesting presentation conducted by Bill Moggridge co-founder of IDEO and Amory Lovings of The Rocky Mountains Institute.
Bill Moggridge spoke of how Technology, business and people are so important in our society and the role they play in respect of one another. He also showed sketches of his laptop invention which he designed in 1980 and how it revolutionised our technology. He emphasised on how health and well being must be considered to achieve global sustainability as well as sustainable products. He also spoke of a milk carton which he came across during one of his trips to Denmark made out of Ecolen, later found to have chalk and plastic binding agents.
Amory Lovings spoke about how by using environmentally friendly materials money can be saved and used Eco buildings as an example, he also expressed his concern on the lack of official assessments despite the success rate achieved when applied to housing, cars, light trucks, heavy trucks, ships and airplanes.
It was concluded that as responsible human beings we ought to think more of the implications that may be created by using certain materials which can be harmful to the environment. This is what I would call common sense!
The answer is yes, if that is what it takes to fully understand the subject of Natural Dyeing.
Since arriving in the US in May 2009, I have been trying to find ways in which to do my research regarding Natural Dyes/Extracts/Natural Colorants and Pigments. My findings so far have been very limited and the only basic evidence I have come across here in Washington, DC in particular has been at “The Textile Museum”. As a result, I have decided to try my luck in New York after following the advice of Jenny Balfour-Paul who is a well known academic in the subject of Indigo and the author of books on the subject. ”The Yarn Tree Studios” subsequently proved to be a wise choice to do my first workshop under the instruction and strict supervision of Linda Labelle where we dyed using both cellulose and protein yarns and dyes such as Eucalyptus, Myrobalan, Pomegranate, Cochineal, Madder root, Cutch Logwood and Indigo . The workshop was an intense and enjoyable experience which lasted three days and Linda was always keen to answer any questions no matter how simple or complicated these might be. Being a lover of colour and not particularly afraid of getting my hands dirty, I proceeded to listen and participate in this great workshop as I owe it to myself to continue being a Bon Vivant of Natural Dyes, I am sure Linda would agree!
When I was asked to design the logo for the next symposium and exhibition on natural dyes to be held in La Rochelle, France at the end of April 2011, I felt rather priviledged. The appointment came via an email from Anne de la Sayette from France. I was in the UK at the time and preparing to leave for the US not long after that, so I guess this section of my blog is slightly overdue and should have been written back in mid November after the decision was made to select the most suitable image for ISEND’s webpage.
I supplied Anne de la Sayette and Dr. Dominique Cardon who are the organizers of the symposium with several ideas for the logo and although the deadline was brought forward by a total of two weeks, the unanimous decision to choose the active logo for the website was reached. If you are interested please do not hesitate to log onto www.isend2011.com to view it. Credits for this can be seen by clicking on the terms and conditions section at the bottom of the webpage.
The story behind the fabric used by Cuban born and New York based Fashion Designer Isabel Toledo for the innaguration dress worn by Michelle Obama is quite enchanting as I found out during an evening organised by The Textile Museum in DC and to which I was kindly invited to attend.
As the designer herself explained ” It was a privilege to be able to design the innaguartion dress for the Fisrt Lady” although this would not be the first time that Michelle Obama favours Isabel Toledo’s designs.
The fabric was manufactured by Forster Rohner a swiss company specialising in fashion fabrics for both Pret-a-Porter and Couture. They have been selling fabrics to Isabel Toledo for the last 15 years. The fabric used for the dress is a cleverly machine engineered Irish lace inspired design using tulle as a backing fabric which gives a metallic feel and look to it in the most beautiful shade of mustard yellow or lemon grass as it has been described in the media.
Meeting Isabel and her illustrator husband Ruben Toledo was a refreshing experience.
The Textile Museum is a hidden gem in the Dupont area of DC. Since being in Washington, I have had the pleasure to attend private views, museum talks and visit the Arthur D. Jenkins library of Textile Arts on many occasions which luckily for me re-opened on September 30th 2010.
The Mary Baskett collection currently on exhibit until April 11, 2010 is comprised of pieces from her own personal collection/wardrove which she began collecting during the late 1980s whilst being the curator of prints at the Cincinnati Museum in the late 1960s. Japanese designers include Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons for whom I have had the priviledge to design printed textiles in the 1980s.
The Innovation of Nuno exhibition displays an amazing range of fabrics from the BORO BORO, FUWA FUWA, SHIMI JIMI, KIRA KIRA, SUKE SUKE and SAWA SAWA collections some of which I am familiar with.
I continue to use the museum’s library for my personal research and studies on natural dyes.
I decided to postpone attending this symposium in Vancouver as I am due to do a workshop in Jaipur, India at the begining of January 2010. As it happens, Maiwa are directly involved with projects in the Jaipur area using natural dyes and block printing so I thought it best to try my luck while in India.
However, Michelle Wippingler herself was kind enough to get back to me and suggest that I do the same workshop in her studios in Seattle, this is something I intend to pursue in 2010.
When asked to address a group of students at CDI by course leader Rachna Singh, I was thrilled. The Institute, one of its kind in India funded by the government as well as the private sector, offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate design led with emphasis on craft courses, where traditional methods of application such as block printing using natural dyes are taught as part of the academic programme. Work placements with established local textile firms such as Rangotri, Rashid and Ojjas are higly encouraged.
This wonderful workshop which involves traditional methods of block printing took place at OJJAS printing premises in the North West of Jaipur over a period of four days under the supervision and guidance of experts in the field which included Dhananjai Singh co-0wner of this growing business and Natalie Gibson from Central Saint Martins in London.
The mud paste used (also known as dahbu) consists of five different components one of which is lime stone. Calico was used to experiment with and old wooden blocks were carefully selected for sharpness and clear definition. Fabric pieces were block printed with “dahbu” and sprinkled with sawdust in order to absorb the excess moisture. All samples were left to dry in the sunshine before being immersed in the indigo dye vat. Some fabrics were printed over when dry and redyed in pomegranate and myrobalan using khasis as mordant also known as ferrous sulphate. All of these were in the powder form with the exception of pomegranate.
On the last day of the workshop an exhibition of fabrics and garments printed and dyed was held on the lawns of The Diggi Palace hotel and was attended by OJJA’s representatives as well as other distinguished guests from the block printing industry in Jaipur. I displayed several pieces in calico, cotton poplin, silk habotai and silk crepe de chine. The last two lenghts of dahbu printed silks were made into funky ties.
I planned to attend this rare and dazzling exhibition on Indian natural dyes while researching on the subject in the US after a tip from Jenny Balfour Paul who is not only an authority on Indigo blue but a constant source of inspiration to me personally and to others I am sure.
Visitors form across the world gathered in Kolkata for this very special occasion to catch a glimpse of the fascinating display of natural dyes and textile samples which stood testimony to the Indian rich textiles and dye history all under one roof at the ICCR building.
For the first time in history surviving volumes of the Indian dye chronicler Thomas Wardle who happened to be William Morris’s dyer during the time of the Arts and Crafts movement in England were on display as well as works of Forbes Watson on Indian textures. I was lucky and priviledged enough to be able to witness such findings and be part of this whole experience.
The seminars were addressed by distinguished authorities such as Dr. Brenda king from the UK , Dr. Anne-Rose Bringel from France, Dr. Jenny Balfour-Paul from the UK, Ruby Ghuznavi from Bangladesh, Lynda Hillyer and her team from the V&A, UK, Mr.Vinod Daniel from Australia and Mr. Pramod Kumar from the Anokhi museum of handprinting from India.
An exhibition of rare Bengal textiles was also held at ICCR and demonstrations on spinning and weaving, balaposh, kantha, rafoogars and natural dyes were also held at different venues in the city of Kolkata.
This conference was masterminded by Amrita Mukherjee and professionally executed by her team.
The telephone never stopped ringing at Earthues studios in Seattle during my recent visit where I undertook an intense 1-2-1 course with Michele Wipplingler. From the moment I was introduced to Michele in India and discussed with her the reasons why it was important for me to do a special workshop at Earthues, the moment I felt reassured about my original idea. I was thrilled and equally delighted when we mutually agreed and raised to the challenge over a glass of wine in Kolkata. Michele’s confidence and knowledge on the subject of natural dyes is overwhelming. This is something that became apparent to me from day one. Her acumen surpasses the reputation she confers which is why people from all over the world, including myself, seek her invaluable wisdom and expertise on such complex matters relating to natural dyeing. Michele is the genuine advocate and pioneer of natural dyes that I had imagined she would be. I became totally absorbed in her world in no time, the world of Earthues. I realized then without a spec of a doubt that my decision to come to Seattle to further my knowledge on the art of dyeing fine silks with indigo, madder and weld extracts was the right one for me. Michele was generous in more ways that I dared to imagine, her studio practice was impeccable and infectious. Her method of dyeing complimented her creative approach to hand painting fabrics. I am honoured and priviledged to have had the opportunity to learn from the great master that Michele is, and came away feeling completely reassured that my involvement with Earthues and friendship with Michele in particular will continue for years to come. Thank you Earthues!
To attend this important seminar was a last minute decision as my time to dye silks at Earthues studios would have to be cut short if I attended. Thanks to Michele’s persuasive ways and confident reassurance that it would all be completed in time for my return to California, I joined her on the three hour drive to Oregon during early hours of the morning to arrive just in time to quickly register at the ACE Hotel, venue where the seminar was being held. After a brief and courteous introduction by Emmanuelle Linard, our narrator, the presentation started.
Being sensitive to issues pertaining to nature, I was instantly engaged, partly due to Emmanuelle’s soft manner when speaking but also due to a sequence of projected and highly motivating visuals. Here, the planet we inhabit served as the perfect inspirational backdrop for 2012, not only for the beautiful flora and fauna that abounds on it, but for the catastrophic disasters that occur as a result of heavy rain, snow storms, draughts and climate changes in general. A series of mood boards with complementary chromatic colours alongside textural patterns were all part the theme.
Also for 2012, natural dyes are seriuosly illustrated as part of that important component that is so necessary for the dyeing of sustainable textiles at an international level. ISEND 2011, to be held in La Rochelle, France this coming April plays a key role.
The seminar ended on a high note when unexpectedly Emmanuelle Linard asked Michele Wipplinger and myself to comment on the subject of natural dyes, an impromptu request which made the three hour drive in heavy traffic back to Seattle an easy ride to contemplate.
For the second time in seven months, I have recently visited Earthues studios in Seattle where my aim was to define a palette of red nuances on protein fabrics by using natural dye extracts as part of a special Couture project I am currently working in collaboration with fashion designer Deborah Milner from London and textile artist Noriko Endo from Japan. To help me orchestrate my vision however, I needed further alliance, in drizzly Seattle, I found the perfect match thanks again to Michele Wipplinger of Earthues.
For the duration of my six day visit, I was tantalized by the effects of colour metamerism and the tricks that it can play on the retina, theory which I have studied as part of my research for the book I have been writing for sometime. To translate visions of red hues onto expensive silks by way of natural dyeing however was in essence a tricky enough task to undertake but a challenge that Michele was only too happy to conduct despite her own personal and professional tight schedule of work.
Like many renowned dyers of the Middle Ages and their forfathers before them, I wanted expensive and rare Nochezli, as it was known in the Old World to provide me with a special kind of red, in rare cochineal extract, I found that and although I was able to obtain a brilliant shade of crimson from it, I did not quite achieve the scarlet red of the Middle Ages that I had previously seen time and time on paintings by Old Masters during endless visits to The National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery and British Museum in London as well as The Legion of Honour here in San Francisco in my quest for the reds, a chromatic vision that has travelled with me ever since. Madder extract as I suspected however changed all that, it held the final card of triumph in the mixing. It transported me for a moment to the magical world of Rosetti circa 1530, where I was able to witness through the art of dyeing the romantic brilliance of a “perfect red” in the making by mixing the kind of gold that does not shine with a special red that does. Michele and her obliging team acted as provisioners of a fortified arsenal in twenty first century America.
AMFI in Amsterdam embraces issues of sustainabilty as part of the curricula, situated along the Amstel river just outside Central Station, AMFI offers one of the best courses in fashion/marketability and branding in Europe, a reputation that has earned this institution accolades amongst Colleges and Universities of Fashion throughout the Continent. The aim of my lecture delivered to over 100 students was to demostrate the use of sustainable colour extracts in fashion and textile designing as part of a design strategy.
Arriving in La Rochelle to attend ISEND2011 brought feelings of deja vu. The town, founded by Louis XIV in eighteenth century France was to host of one the most important symposiums on natural dyes. The area round the old harbour where the local aquarium stands erected was transformed into an International arena where friends, colleagues and experts from over 60 countries gathered to share historical data and the latest scientific advances on natural dyes. Encone, also known to the locals as the old fish market provided the perfect venue. The main auditorium hosted over 80 lectures delivered by a selection of scientists, textile historians, practitioners, artists and designers. Raising the profile of natural dyes was the main objective of the symposium. Demostrating their use at an industrial level was indeed a ground braking achievement. It casted a defining moment in the realms of natural dyes. Workshops, poster presentations as well as an art and fashion exhibiton were all part of the main programme. La Rochelle, with its historical background and beautiful architecture was indeed the perfect place for it. Excellent food and wine together with superb French hospitality was enjoyed by all. A beautifully orchestrated gala evening contributed to a splendid finale Louis XIV would have dyed for, thank you Critt Horticole for organizing such an important event and for inviting me to be part of it!
“Bougainvillea Couture” has been conceptualised by Luiven Rivas-Sanchez in collaboration with renowned designers, master dyers and textile artists from across the world. It aims to positively challenge the high end of the fashion market by using unfamiliar materials in order to push the boundaries of Couture as an Art form. It is an innovative philosophy culled from traditional methods of application in which dyeing using natural dyes together with enhancing creative techniques and imaginative pattern cutting give way to ecology in design.
“Bougainvillea Couture” is a concept morphed out of nature and inspired from cultural riches of the past, its main objective is to promote awareness in sustainable fashion and textiles enabling designers to rethink the way the word “WEAR” is commonly tagged, it is a conceptual process that aims to educate, engage and stimulate consumers for years to come in a world that is pervasively poisoned and polluted with chemicals, pollutants and industrial toxins of which 17%-20% waste is humanly generated by the textile industry.
I have never before searched the countryside for food nor provisions of any kind with neither purpose nor intent until very recently. Sasha Duerr, founder of The Permacouture Institute in California, through her take on Eco-literacy and this wonderful and one of many workshops held on the West Coast of California has enabled me to achieved just that. The very ancient art of “foraging” takes a different perspective on textiles as sources of dyestuff used to dye cloth and yarns are organically and locally grown. The fact that it took place on Stone Edge Farm in the heart of Sonoma wine country was indeed a bonus. This privately owned retreat farm, attentively guarded and modern in design is composed of an elegantly balanced and uncluttered landscape set amongst Californian bay and oak trees bordered by a seasonal creek in Sonoma county. It also has, as I was later informed its very own observatory, two reflecting and separate raised lap pools, all surrounded by hundreds of olive trees. A superb setting that enabled me to understand the ecological landscape that harvests the plants we used to dye with. Under the shade of an old tree, local oak galls were gathered for tanning, grape and vine leaves were used for the yielding of soft mauves just as sour grass and pear leaves did yellows and greens, while basil and a wonderful selection of flowers were used to pound delicate hues and patterns onto cloth. The workshop came to a brilliant crescendo as renowned local chef John McReynolds provided the most exquisite of all to dye for lunches, prepared with on site organically grown produce and consumed with the farms very own rose wine and a tasteful selection of organically made fruit beverages that turned pear juice into a new alcoholic delight. Designing with organically procured colours has indeed opened a whole new way of textile yielding for me. By bringing people together through food and wine, foraging turns into a new and envigorating art form, connecting the linguists of natural yielding textiles with the very people that help sustain it.
When I was asked to try Aquarelle dyes, a new natural dyes product at Botanical Colours www.botanicalcolors.com, I accepted without hesitation. The rationale behind testing new dyestuffs that are not only easier to manipulate, but also organically certified in essence, to me, was an effortless decision to make. Since my dealings with natural dyes started over four years ago, I have had the opportunity to use dyestuffs that are chemically speaking, different, which means that by the law of natural chemistry, they behave and bind molecularly differently too.
As a textile designer with an eye for fashion however, I look for colours that are not only beautiful and pleasing to the retina, but that are also by the law of nature sustainable, so the words toxic and synthetic are faux pas to me and NOT part of the equation.
When it comes to naturally dyeing, there are two obvious contenders to consider, hand dyeing and industrial dyeing. Hand dyeing can be done within confined spaces using limited resources and are almost always practised by artisans; industrial dyeing on the other hand can be accomplished in large quantities using the appropriate equipment. There is something to be said for both, hand dyeing with natural indigo, for example, although laborious in technique due to the nature of VAT dyeing, can be a beautiful experience indeed, as it can yield exquisite shades of blue despite the crocking that it can cause. Hand dyeing with natural extracts on the other hand, can bring a different dimension to dyeing, in as far as they can be dissolved for yielding purposes depending on the nature of the material to be dyed. My only concern being the amount of spotting that results in the process. Hand dyeing using aquarelle dyes including Saxon Blue, can simplify all of the above, as less water is necessary to dissolve 1 gr of dyestuff. They are in essence, not only sustainable but also ideal, with the aid of a disperse solution as part of the suggested process, a far greater dyeing cover per length of cloth can also be achieved. So it would seem, that most technical difficulties can be overcome.
Is this the way forward, I ask myself? as a purist, I would be inclined to personally advocate to the use of raw natural material but as technology advances and fashion becomes more sustainably demanding, it would make perfect sense to prefer naturally yielding colour dyes that are both sustainable by nature and easier to handle, the decision lies entirely with the individual.
Thank you Botanical Colours for providing me with the opportunity to try Aquarelles out. For further information on the product please contact Kathy Hattori on firstname.lastname@example.org
The indigenous people of “La Goajira” also known as Wayuu, are one of the most flamboyant and colourful people of Venezuela I know. Men take pride in their personal appearance just as much as women do. Their collection of hats, normally woven using natural basketry materials, are practical and yet sophisticated in style, a mixture between a panana and a fedora, with their wide brims and tilted fronts, make the perfect head sun screens I have come across. The women on the other hand, prefer to sunblock naturally by applying goat’s fat jelly under a dark brown plant powder extract they call “pai-pai”, suspected to derive from logwood bark. Bandanas are their only optional headdress varying in colour depending on their marital status.
Their crafts are stellar, from woven hammocks in assorted colourful variations to laboriuosly tufted rugs that can sell at extortionate prices depending on the artist/designer crafting them. Through a well connected friend, I had the pleasure to observe the work of renowned artist and professor of fine Art at the Universidad Catolica of Maracaibo E. Parra, who has not only been leading the art of tufted tapestry in the area, but also exploring ways in which to express his paintings through textiles for years. His Ec0-friendly approach to textile tufting has an ethical strategy in place, to support the local community by employing indigenous craftsmen to daily tuft layers and layers of canvas cloth for the making of accesories and wall hangings that sell at affordable prices depending on their intricacy.
One of my concerns however, was indeed the lack of use of natural resources in preference to cheap and locally sourced synthetically yielded fibres and materials made in China no less. The methods of yarn dyeing that were once part of their natural process of colour yielding, have subsequently dwindled to near zero practice, the lack of water, once collected from distant reservoirs has contributed to the break down in hand dyeing tradition. As their ecological resources continue to slowly disappear and their crafts head towards a near demise, the colourful communities of the Wayuu are forced to migrate towards the big cities beyond Colombian frontiers in search of employment and sustenance in a bid to gain social and artistic recognition.
To an “Alijuna”, name given to an outsider and that would be me, Shawantama’ana, situated North of Maracaibo City is a transient and bustling trading place for the Wayuu, it also sees the daily exodus of over crowded buses welcoming arrivals and bidding farewell to dozens of indigenous people that leave towards barren countryside beyond Zuila State in order to take home supplies and hard earned wages. Peacefully and quietly they struggle to conform and survive within a mixed society, in a city that refuses to accept their ways. It is a place full of ecological wealth surrounded by natural beauty, a frozen labyrinth where the Wayuu are obliged to co-exist. Here, they are nomads in search of social and cognitive re-adjustment, through their art and dandy dress sense they remain dignified, supported by a plethora of colourful skills.