Dyes & the Dyeing Process
A 100% biocarbon wicking treatment made from microalgae. It keeps you cool and dry by absorbing unwanted moisture and helping it evaporate from the fabric.
The Problem With Dyes
Textile dyeing has a high environmental footprint. This stage of garment production has three main issues:
1. Dyeing requires a high volume of chemical inputs which can result in polluted wastewater outputs that harm ecosystems when improperly treated
2. It relies on energy that usually comes from non-renewable sources to power the facility
3. It consumes large volumes of water to fix the dyes to the textiles
Today, there is no one magic solution that addresses all the issues with textile dyeing. We work with the best available dyes and dyeing techniques that address one or more of these problems to reduce our footprint as much as possible.
In parallel, we’re constantly searching for new solutions and partnering with innovators to scale the next generation of dyes that are kinder to the planet. Watch this space, we have exciting innovations coming soon and we can’t wait to share them with you.
An exclusive capsule colored with Recycrom - a breakthrough dye technology. We’ve recycled our textile leftovers into new one-of-a-kind colors by pulverizing our unused material offcuts into fine pigment powders and applying the pigment powders to dye the pieces. From Coral Pink and Apricot to Aloe Green and Sky Blue, we’re offering a new formula for dyeing and a solution to tackling this water-intensive process.
What We Look Out For
We use the below criteria to evaluate the dyes and dyeing techniques available today:
Dyestuff: a dye is a colored substance that chemically bonds to the surface of a fiber
- Biobased, natural or synthetic dyes with high fixation efficiency and color fastness
- Compliant with and/or approved by 3rd party textile safety certifications, such as STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® and GOTS
Dyehouses / Dyeing: the facility and process of dyeing textiles.
- Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC compliant)
- Recycled water systems
- Powered by renewable energy
- Transparency of processes and ingredients used
- Dyeing methods which are more water and energy efficient (e.g. batch dyeing)
- Fabric prepared with chemical inputs from the GOTS positive list (including chlorine-free bleaching)
Dyes We Are Working With:
Poly-functional Reactive dyes
Reactive dyes are the most important and widely used dyestuff for coloring cellulosic fibers (like cotton and linen, as well as human-made semi-synthetics like lyocell, viscose and modal).
Ready For The Science Bit?
Reactive dyes are synthetic (human-made) compounds made of 2 main parts: the color part (called the chromophore) and the part that binds to the fiber surface.
Reactive dyes covalently bind to the cellulose molecules in the fiber. Covalent bonds are the strongest types of chemical bonds (after the bond of love), which is why they are one of the most permanent dyes. Think of them as super sticky.
What’s so bad about that?
Well firstly, synthetic reactive dyes are made from fossil fuels, which are non-renewable resources. The current standard method of dyeing (called aqueous dyeing) also uses water, and this, combined with super sticky reactive dyes can be problematic if mismanaged:
- In the water-based dye bath, a dye molecule will either bind (stick!) to the fiber and color the fabric, or to a water molecule (in a process known as hydrolysis).
- Dye molecules that have reacted with water are very difficult to remove from a dye bath, making the treatment of wastewater chemically intensive and expensive. This is also the reason why dye baths cannot be reused.
- When improperly treated, dye-filled wastewater released into the environment prevents sunlight from getting to underwater organisms who need sunlight to survive, causing major environmental damage.
To reduce the amount of dye in our wastewater, we use dyes with greater binding efficiency (called polyfunctional reactive dyes). This means our dyes are more likely to stick (bind) to the fibers (where we want them!) and less likely to react with the water molecules. This means less dye-filled wastewater (effluent) is released as polluting waste. As a result, we’re also able to use less dyestuff to achieve the same shade of color, and reduce water and energy consumption, as well as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the dyeing and washing-off process.This aligns with the green chemistry principle of pollution-prevention—reducing overall waste by using fewer inputs (ingredients) upstream.
We know it’s complex and the current solutions aren’t perfect.
We are committed to reducing our consumption of non-renewable reactive dyes, and are working on diversifying the types of dyes we use. We partner closely with new innovators as well as our existing supply chain partners to improve the dyeing process and inputs wherever we can, with our ultimate goal to turn the unimaginable into reality!
Natural dyes are derived from nature and made from renewable sources.
What are they made from?
These natural colorants are extracted from a wide variety of origins including plants, minerals and fungi, to name just a few. Dyes made from plants, vegetables or food waste are classified as botanical dyes. Dyes made from minerals found near the Earth's surface, such as hematite, are known as mineral dyes.
Why are natural dyes better for the planet?
Natural dyes have some inherent environmental advantages over synthetic dyes. They are sourced from renewable origins that can be replenished responsibly, including food waste and inedible plant sources. They also offer a great alternative to synthetic dyes which rely on non-renewable fossil fuel origins.
It’s not that simple though
Natural dyes do present technical and environmental challenges of their own, which make them tricky to work with.
- Their use is mostly limited to natural fibers (e.g. cotton, linen, wool etc.). This makes them incompatible with popular synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester.
- Shades can also be difficult to keep consistent, which can lead to a lot of waste where uniform tones are required. Repeating dye batches to achieve the same shade wastes water, dyestuff and energy every time the process is repeated.
- They have poor color fastness when exposed to water and light. Put simply, this means the color doesn’t hold onto the fiber tightly, and will fade over time. As a result, these dyes usually require the addition of metallic mordants (such as iron and tin).
What is a “mordant”?
A substance that combines with the dye to fix it to the fiber. Some metallic mordants can be toxic, especially when released as a part of the waste water, counteracting the environmental benefits of the dyes!
Despite all these challenges, we see an exciting future for natural dyes.
They help to encourage a shift towards more renewable and responsible systems of production. We launched two collections in 2020 using natural botanical dyes and are working with exciting innovations in this space, coming to you soon!
EarthColors® by Archroma
Did you know that in conventional garment production across the textile industry, cotton is often colored using sulfur dyes derived from fossil fuels? Fossil fuels are a non-renewable and rapidly depleting resource, meaning once they’re gone—they’re gone for good. Extracting them is also polluting and harmful to the environment because they release carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) when they’re burned to produce energy, trapping heat in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change.
Instead, EarthColors® by Archroma are made using renewable, non-edible waste products leftover from the food and herbal industries (such as nut shells and leaves), which are then turned into colorful dyestuff. By repurposing waste, these high-performance natural-based dyes help reduce the reliance on fossil-fuel based resources and support the transition to a circular economy.
Key benefits (compared to conventional sulfur dyes*):
- 600x less of a negative impact on natural resources
- 350x less impact on water footprint of the dyeing process
- 700x less harmful to human wellness
- 400x less of a negative impact on climate change
* Statistics based on LCA screening of EarthColors® by Archroma plant based raw material vs. fossil-fuel based raw material used in conventional sulfur dyes.EarthColors® by Archroma dyestuffs are ZDHC, bluesign® and GOTS approved. They have also received the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute's Platinum Level Material Health Certificate.
Natural Indigo Dyeing
Ever wondered how most denim on the market is dyed? Synthetic indigo. This is a chemically intensive process that comes from harmful petrochemicals. As we continuously work to make our denim ranges more responsible, we aim to use natural indigo dyestuff instead wherever possible. Ours is sourced from the Indigofera tinctoria plant leaves and grown in southern India.
What’s the main difference between traditional dyeing and natural indigo dyeing?
Natural indigo pigment doesn’t dissolve in water like most dyestuff, meaning it needs to be ‘reduced.’ This is done through a process called ‘alkaline reduction’ which helps turn the indigo into a powder, ready to be dissolved in water for a dye bath.
How does traditional dyeing usually work?
- The synthetic dyestuff (derived from petrochemicals) is placed into a bath of water
- The fabric is submerged into the bath where the dyestuff penetrates the fiber
- A substance called a ‘mordant’ is combined with the dye to fix the color to the fabric
How does natural indigo dyeing work?
- The natural indigo pigment is placed into a bath of water (did you know this turns it yellow instead of blue?)
- The fabric is submerged into bath repeatedly to build the pigment (this is called ‘ring dyeing’)
- Finally, when the fabric is removed from the dye bath and comes into contact with air, the fabric turns into the blue color you know and love (this is called ‘oxidization’)
We are continuously exploring new and innovative ways of dyeing our fabrics with less water, chemicals and energy. Stay tuned for more coming soon.
Did you know that dyeing is one of the most polluting industrial processes? That’s why we partnered up with Colorifix to innovate our first-ever clothing capsule colored with lab-grown dyes made from bacteria. Colorifix is a biotechnology company who transform industrial dyeing into a responsible, cost-efficient process.
How does it work?
Colorifix identifies and replicates pigments that exist in nature, engineers bacteria in a lab and transforms it into colorful dyes that you can wear. While most conventional dyes are made using toxic petrochemicals, Colorifix uses renewable feedstocks such as sugar, yeast and plant byproducts. That means zero harmful chemicals, less energy wasted and less water, too.
Our Dyehouse Partners
As well as choosing the right dyes, we are also partnering with dyehouses who use better methods to power their machinery, reduce their water consumption, treat wastewater more responsibly and reuse this resource as much as possible.
Here are some examples of the practices used for our core products such as organic and recycled cotton:
- We work with several dye houses that employ a range of responsible technologies to further reduce the environmental footprint of our dyeing.
- To responsibly treat and dispose of wastewater, it is either: filtered and then transferred to on-site biological water treatment facilities, before being sent to specialized Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants, or filtered and sent directly to the Municipal Treatment Plants. This ensures that none of the wastewater enters the local environment without having gone through a rigorous treatment and cleaning process.
- Our main dyehouse partners are partially to fully powered by renewable energy through solar panels, wind energy and dams. For their remaining purchased energy, they source from wind, dams (hydro-electric power) and solar.
- Our main dyehouses also capture and reuse the hot steam and heat from the dye wastewater to heat other processes - reducing energy consumption elsewhere within the facilities.