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The Sustainable Dyearies: The Core of Dyeraid Part 1



Let's talk Natural Dye. After all, that is the core of this whole thing, right? There is so much I have to share with you in this department that I am splitting "The Core of Dyeraid" into three parts. This Dyerarie entry, part 1, will be focused on the history of natural dye and how we got to where we are today in the world of Dyeing. Part 2 will compare and contrast Natural vs. Synthetic Dye. Is it actually better for the environment? Is it actually more sustainable? Part three, we get personal... oh yeah. We will dig into why I chose natural dye specifically, why it matters and some of the future impact plans I have for Dyeraid. STRAP. IN. These entries are going to be filled with so much goodness, you won't want to miss a thing.



Let's Begin


Colored fabric, tale as old as time. In fact the oldest evidence suggests as old as 2600BC from tomb findings of Red/ Yellow textiles (Patra, 2016). Other old findings include manuscripts by the name of "the Stockholm Papyrus" from around 323 BC, containing hundreds of recipes for manufacturing dyes and how to apply them to textiles.



Around this time, the most expensive dye in the world came from a sea snail in the Mediterranean (Patra, 2016)! You heard me. This snail, more like 120 pounds of this snails, made 1 gram of purple dye powder coined as Tyrian Purple (Westcott, 2020). Due to its rarity and quality, it became a luxurious color used exclusively on clothing for royals. Luckily, this is not the only method of dye extraction. Dye was also extracted from minerals, plant flowers, leaves or bark. These were the easiest elements to find & develop - thus becoming popular among lower class people.


Natural dye continued to remain popular from ancient Egypt, to Ancient Greece and Rome and through Medieval Europe and England. We are talking little black dress timeless through so much cultural change and evolution. Through every era, the elite used these natural dyes as a status symbol.


Fast Forward


It's 1860, women are in the worlds tightest corsets and every man wears a top hat like Lincoln. One of these men being Sir William Henry Perkin, a Knighted British Chemist. THE Knighted British chemist who is credited for the discovery of Synthetic Dye, Mauveine (KeyColour, 2015). Best part, it was a big ole accident (apparently he was trying to cure malaria). This accident turned out to be "aniline purple" also coined as "Perkin's Mauve (Prisco, 2017)."



Are you seeing this crazy coincidence? No? Think about it. Until now, textiles in shades of purple were the most coveted color of all time. The difference now? A rare Tyrian Shell was no longer the only source of such a vibrant, high quality colored textile. This changed fashion forever.


With the rise of the Industrial Revolution and many scientists around the world developing synthetic dyes, natural dyes eventually became extinct due to their rare source material, the time it takes to produce them, and variability in color. It was the perfect storm that allowed dyed garments to become more affordable and mass manufactured. So perfect that it lead to the rise of the middle class, but it also led to pollution and global warming. Psst... now you're confused if this is a good or bad thing, right? Don't worry, we'll flesh this out more in Part 2.


Who knew natural dye, the color purple and the mixing of class systems all coincided? I didn't! To this day it is said amongst fashion trend forecasters that when purple comes into the picture as trending, it is a symbol of change.