As you may know, the KONTRAST clothing collection is solely dyed with natural colors. The colors we work with (so far!) are green, blue and the (non color) white. We will soon post an article about the natural dying process, but this article will be dedicated to the indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria), which we use to dye our pieces BLUE <3.
The plant is different from other plants used for natural dying, as it does not dissolve in water. We will spare you the technical details, but it is in short terms an oxidizing process. Looking at the plant for the first time, you would never guess that it is able to color a piece of textile into an intense blue color.
The indigo plant has been used to dye fabrics and materials for thousands of years. The plant was discovered and utilized in different continents, unrelated to each other. During the colonial times from 1700-1800, India was the centre of cultivation of indigo plants. As the indigo plant and the cotton plant thrive in a similar climate, the British saw it as the ideal solution to coordinate the growth and cultivation of indigo and cotton plants on the same land.
The family of Indigofera plants (consisting of 800 different types of species) was in high demand among European trading companies as it resulted in a more intense color than the Vaid plant common in Europe. By using slaves (mostly Indians) cotton and indigo became the two dominating industries controlled by the British Empire. Although not controlled by the British after the colonial times it is still dominating industries in India, and Indigo is today one of the last colors still used in natural dying.
Indigo blue is one of the hardest colors to create with synthetic chemicals. It took 50 years for chemists to make a synthetic version that looked similar to the natural indigo blue. In 1897, the German company Badishe Anilin Soda Fabrik was able to develop the synthetic version, and since then, the prices of synthetic indigo outcompeted the natural one. In the late 1880s there were 2800 big indigo factories in India. In 1911 it had already declined to 121 factories, and continued to decline in the years after.
We are proud of our blue KONTRAST pieces, as we think it has an intense and deep hue, which is hard to find in synthetically colored clothing. When wearing a blue shirt, dress or pants from KONTRAST we think you should be proud too. It represents an environmentally friendly process, and is a true gift from the Indigo plant, and nature itself.
Balfour-Paul, Jenny (2006) ”Indigo – Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans” London:
The British Museum Press