More than most brands, we understand just how hard it can be to balance a love of fashion with a concern for the planet. With the toll rising on the environmental and human cost of this industry, most of us are scrambling for a more sustainable closet in 2020. But radically changing the way we dress — and crucially, the way we buy — is no simple task. So, where do you begin?
For us, the first step was getting educated on what our clothes are really made of. This meant questioning every choice: from the fabrics we source, to the colours we create. Enter: natural dyes. When we first learnt just how beautiful and eco-friendly plant-based pigments could be, we fell hard and fast. Now, every piece of cotton and linen in the RIMMBA collection is dyed solely using organic materials like roots, leaves, bark, fruits and flowers. Keep reading to discover why this matters, and the five reasons why we’re keeping the love alive.
1. Natural dyes are gentler on mother earth.
Until the mid-1800s, all textiles were dyed using naturally-occurring minerals, plants and animal products. But today, almost every piece in your wardrobe would have been made using synthetic dyes, which contain a slew of toxic chemicals. In fact, conventional textile dyeing and treatment is currently the second-largest polluter of water in the world (!), devastating many of our rivers and lakes.
In contrast, natural dye is wholly organic, and its wastewater poses no danger to plants, animals, nor human hands. At RIMMBA, we produce most of our colours in collaboration with CV Tarum, an amazing factory in East Bali which discards very little wastewater at all. Instead, it is collected and filtered through a pond of water hyacinths, after which it is clean enough to be used again.
2. They produce truly unique colours.
What natural dyes may lack in longevity, they make up for in depth and richness of colour. There’s something special in the way they play up the textures of linen and cotton, emphasising each fibre instead of flattening them down. This raw quality means you can expect beautiful tones at every stage of the shedding process. Here's a peek at what we’ve cooked up so far:
Fire Red: a show-stopper created from a mix of mango leaf, mahogany leaf and sappanwood.
Lilac: a soft purple created from sappanwood.
Yellow: liquid sunshine created from marigolds.
Pink: a dusky blush created from avocado peels and pits.
Silver: a luxurious shade created from Balinese mulberries.
Amber: a colour caught between yellow and orange, created from Achiote berries.
3. Their use is a win for local plants and farmers.
We are excited to work with natural dye experts like CV Tarum and Threads of Life, who are both based in Bali and are committed to the conservation of Indonesia’s native botanicals. We continue to learn so much from them, including how to support the sustainable farming of species like indigo, mahogany and the Symplocos tree, which we use to create our dye mordant.
4. We also get to revitalize long-lost traditional techniques.
Across Indonesia, from Sumatra to Timor, plant-based pigments have become a rare and dying art. (Pun intended.) We want to celebrate these skills, knowing that they’ve been passed down through generations of ikat weavers, batik artisans and selendang makers. With each new collection, we hone our craft: learning how to better prepare our fabrics, how long to boil each plant, how to compost the resulting leaf waste.
5. They help us fly our slow fashion flag.
We realize that natural dyes have their limitations, including the fact that they are costly and time-consuming. Still, they help us signal something very important to the industry: that we refuse to contribute to fast fashion, or to stand by and sit on our laurels. By pushing for natural dyes, we are pursuing our vision of a safer and more sustainable fashion industry.
With all things said and done, this desire to do better is the most important reason we continue to love — and need — natural dyes. So, on our part, we promise to keep digging, dipping, swatching and testing for cleaner and more conscious alternatives in the way we make our clothing. We hope you’ll join us in the way you shop for yours.
Want to follow our journey? Find us on Instagram.