By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
In the past, it was associated with totally un-chic hippies. But let’s face it: as soon as we all saw Kaia Gerber rocking it on the catwalks for Stella McCartney and Story MFG, we all wanted it, right?
I’m talking about natural tie dye clothing, of course!
Although it’s associated mainly with the 60’s, tie dye has actually been around for millennia. The first recorded piece of tie dyed cloth was found in Peru, and dates back to 500 AD. The Peruvian’s designs included small circles and lines, and bright colours including red, yellow, blue, and green.
since the time of the T’ang Dynasty in China, between 618 and 906 C.E. and during the Nara Period from 552 to 794 C.E. in Japan.
Way back then, people used natural dyes from things like berries, leaves, roots and flowers to colour fabrics. It was easy to do: just take your plants – be they marigolds, sage, onion, indigo, lichen and or blackberries – and place them in boiling water. Cloth would be dipped into the water and allowed it to soak until the desired shade was reached.
As early as the 6th century, people practiced a type of tie-dye known as bandhani in India. This process involves using thread to tie off small pieces of fabric to create intricate patterns when the cloth is dipped in dye. The tied sections remain undyed, and the resulting fabric features small dots.
But there are other techniques, too. For example, shibori, which originated in 8th century Japan, was often used on kimonos and is still practiced today. It involves several labour-intensive resist-dyeing techniques, such as stitching elaborate designs and tightly gathering the stitching prior to dyeing. This process creates elaborate designs on things like kimonos.
From 1568 to 1603, a new type of tie-dye called tsujigahana was developed. This process used a type of Chinese ink: images were drawn or sketched onto the cloth using the ink and then the cloth was dipped into dye. This coloured the fabric surrounding the design, while making the design itself appear darker. Items of clothing made using this process were prized by their owners, and there are still many pieces in existence today.
In the West, tie dye was popularised during the Depression, when housewives were encouraged to use natural materials like tea and plants to dye clothes to give them a new life. But it was really during the late 60’s and early 70’s that tie dye as we know it took off – and it wasn’t the hippies who popularised it so much as it was the designer Halston, who incorporated it into his designs. The look caught the eye of mega stars like Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia, and as soon as they started wearing it, so did everyone else.
And no wonder! Tie dye is a carefree, breezy look that’s easy to do yourself, and is perfectly suited towards summer vibes.
Here, I’ve found five natural tie dye clothing brands that are heavily featuring this trend for their summer collections. And the best part? Their dyes and their clothing fibres are completely natural and biodegradable!
Our Top Natural Tie Dye Clothing Brands
1. Story MFG
The husband and wife team behind this label created it so they could merge social activism with fashion: every item is made by ethically paid craftspeople in an atelier deep in an Indian forest, where any waste from the manufacturing process is so natural and organic, it’s actually used as fertiliser.
Today, the brand combines new and traditional techniques along with organic, natural fibres and create sustainable, cruelty-free, vegan clothing that is 100% biodegradable and compostable after use. Their tie dye effects are rather feminine and gentle, and feature candy pinks and fruity oranges to decorate their billowy, loose designs that suit any body type.
Leave it to 70’s vintage loving Reformation to truly rock the tie dye trend this summer! They’re pairing 70’s styles – think halter tops, French-cut tees and high-waisted jeans – with muted, cloudy dye, mainly in hues of greens and blues this season.
The brand is committed to educating consumers about the environmental impact of clothing production and has always invested in green building infrastructure to minimise their waste, water, and energy footprints. Their collections mainly use Tencel, organic cotton and upcycled deadstock, all assembled in ethical workshops in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles-based luxury lifestyle label was founded by surfing enthusiast Greg Chait in 2007, and was named after William Pitt, a 19th century British politician known for shying away from the mainstream.
Chait himself is a bit unconventional: as a nature lover, he wanted to create a clothing brand from natural fibres that would biodegrade after, but as a luxury lover, he wanted those fibres to be as luxurious as possible. The result? A collection of casual dresses, tees, sweaters and loungewear made from the most exquisite cashmere blends.
Eco-fashion goddess Stella McCartney’s spring 2019 runway collection was packed with tie dye motifs, attesting how this trend will surely conquer the season. Featuring softly dyed cotton tees, cotton jumpsuits with loads of fun zippers and even some skater-style dresses, Stella’s vegan-friendly tie-dye collection is bound to appeal to bourgeois bohemians around the globe.
This London-based contemporary label is only a year old, but is already setting an excellent example for how fashion can be a force for good. The label is titled ‘Ninety Percent’ because that’s how much of their profits are shared between charitable causes and those who bring the collections to life.
All the natural materials they use, such as Tencel and organic cotton, are sourced only from reputable suppliers, to make sustainable athleisure wear that’s sassy, stylish and a little bit luxe.
6. Phat Buddha
Made from organic cotton, Phat Buddha’s styles embody urban chic. You can visit their website to shop their streetwear looks – which happen to include quite a few tie dye items – or if you just want to try before you buy, you can rent an outfit at Rent the Runway first – just click here!
Ok, these guys may not tie dye, but their dyes are to die for! Pangaia never relies on harsh chemicals and colourants to give their clothing their vibrancy. Instead, botanical plants, fruits and vegetables are used to naturally dye these hoodies, pants and comfy T-shirts, making these wardrobe staples almost organic enough to eat!
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