As technical specialists, we admit that colour is not the primary focus of our work at Bold Intimates, however we are acutely aware of it’s importance and magic!
Colour means something and is experienced in a unique and subjective way by each individual who witnesses it. Colour is not used randomly, it is strategically and passionately selected by designers and artists to stir and connect to an emotion. When we feel creativity deeply, whether it be through art, music or fashion, our hair stands on end. We have engagement and a clarity which brings emotional satisfaction and well being. We believe supporting and nurturing our range of emotions in this way is integral for sustainable health of humans as individuals, our communities and ultimately our impact on the planet. Therefore is it not the soul purpose of the designer to feel an emotion so vividly that the consumer can connect with it?
“ With colour one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft” Henri Matisse
So we arrive at the current dilemma, we are hearing a huge frustration amongst Intimate Apparel designers regarding using colour in a responsible way. There is an increasing and alarming awareness that most synthetic materials (and some natural ones!) use chemical dyes which can be toxic and hazardous to both human health and the environment. Alongside this there is the knowledge that we already have a surplus of existing materials available, without producing new ones. Both designers and consumers know they want to make sustainable choices and they also deeply desire to feel something about the product they are investing in.
Designers too often feel that there is a choice to be made between the desired aesthetic and human and planet health. Many mainstream recycled or natural fibre based materials still have a very limited colour offering and with large production minimums and most still use chemical dyes. Natural dyes are often approached with apprehension with a lack of confidence around the palette, the visual possibilities as well as the colour fastness and performance. Essentially, there is currently not enough accessible and transparent information and choice when it comes to sustainable colour for the designer (and ultimately the consumer) to be satiated in their creative process and consequently we are seeing a breakdown of connection between passion and sustainability.
“We have researched natural dyes but have been told by others in the industry that the colour fastness isn’t very good, which in turn encourages the customer to chuck the lingerie, which of course is the least sustainable thing to do." Georgia Larsen, Founder & Director at Dora Larsen.
As with all sustainability issues, we can only start from where we are today and bring awareness to it. We want to invite this conversation into our community and urge lingerie and swim designers to talk to suppliers and material producers from the heart and with curiosity, consideration and expansion. To work together to explore alternatives for positive growth as we have proven over the last year we are hugely capable of.
Don’t be afraid to ask your material and dye suppliers what systems they have in place to manage their chemical risk and to comply with current regulations and accreditations. Look out for responsible labelling schemes such as Blue sign, Oekotex and GOTS which work with companies to implement chemical controls and minimise their effluent output. Many suppliers are well underway in innovating non toxic substances and processes who would be delighted to discuss it with you.
Additionally we are seeing a strong resurgence of skilled natural dyers who can work with a variety of raw materials and plant and agricultural ingredients using non-toxic and regenerative dyeing processes. An expert natural dyer is able to create unique recipes, specific to each material and product specification, considering colour, application, visual effect, performance and fastness using ancient techniques. Natural dyes have been proven to last centuries when treated correctly and we are so excited to be seeing the growth in interest, market availability as well as the talented people who know how to use them.
As the demand and appetite increases across the wider industry safer coloured materials will become more available, with more choice and with less restrictive minimums, prices and knowledge gaps. It will take strong, passionate and authentic communication from brands to tell this new non toxic message and story to the consumer. The good news is that we are undergoing a global collective shift and currently there is not only a raw and open mindedness which is unique to this time but there is a real returning appreciation for the colours nature gives us.
Special thanks to all the wonderful pioneering brands and designers we have spoken to who opened the space for authentic conversation around colour and sustainability challenges and to the inspiring natural dyers and artisans for energising us to the possibilities of sustainable, natural colour.