The use of natural dyes is gaining momentum in India with designers shifting to sustainable fashion. Root, stem, flowers, leaves, bark of various plants, minerals and vegetables are all sources of natural dyes, which are considered safe for the environment. Beetroot for purple, turmeric for mustard, and marigold for golden hue are good examples. We use nature-based dyes in our products. We source our primary colours like white from limestone, black from iron oxide, yellow from turmeric, blue from indigo, and green from spinach,” Neha Kabra, founder of contemporary women’s wear label Maati by Neha Kabra, told Fibre2Fashion.
Aranya Natural, a Munnar-based company surrounded by greenery and forests all around, also uses all the resplendent natural elements for its dyeing process. The company creates dyes from natural resources like eucalyptus, nilgiri kozha (also called eupatorium, is a kind of plant found in Munnar), tea waste, and pinecones harvested from the forest.
The use of natural dyes helps in preventing pollution, and the water after usage can be used in gardening.
“Natural dyes are also essential for workers’ well-being. The Caring Cotton has been working with natural dyes that use bio mordant alum and iron. The dyeing process is done using Jigger machines, so the quality is homogeneous,” said Rubina Ansari, founder and director of The Caring Cotton, which specialises in sourcing sustainable fabrics with special focus on organic cotton and natural dyes.
Talking about the methodology involved in adoption of natural dyes, Mansi Gupta, CEO & founder, Tjori said: “Following the technique of natural dyes is one of the few preliminary steps we have adopted into our designs and apparel production. Once our special dyeing units receive fabric, dyeing or block printing is done according to the requirements. These fabrics need to be curated with a certain solution so that they don’t shed their colours and stay as vibrant as always.”
Kabra agrees: “Though natural dyes are better option for fabrics and apparel, these dyes bleed. In our label we use a plant gum as fixer and hence these natural colours do not bleed and are safe for the environment.”
Fashion connoisseurs are slowly adopting organic clothing too, according to Tjori’s Gupta.
“The eco-conscious generation has become a huge consumer base. The slow process of making the dye is the only factor that creates a time gap in fulfilling the demands of the people, baring which the technique is actually very environment-friendly,” said Gupta.
“The buyers are very happy as they get to wear an Indian art technique made by authentic craftsmen. Natural dyes are slightly towards the paler side of the colour palette and more and more people are opting for them.”
However, cost factor is still a hindrance in making natural dyes. Kabra feels that the cost is slightly high, but far outweighs the advantages it accrues to the environment.
The price difference is not substantial, and natural dyes fall in the category of affordable dyes.
Ansari argues that the cost is on the higher side because of the manual process involved in making natural dyes. She rues that very few people/artisans are working in this sector. “If natural dyes can be organised in an industrial manner, the cost factor can be resolved and if natural dyers get potential orders all around the year there would be a huge cut down in costs.”
With the increasing usage of natural dyes by designers, it is time the Indian textile and fabric industry gives a momentum to natural dyeing techniques and adaptation.