As traditional textiles go, the art of tie-dye is perhaps one of the most special despite its unjust hippie connotations. After all, it has the natural talent of being able to lift the soul with its kaleidoscopic brilliance. We all know that life is at its best when it’s colourful and vibrant, and so there’s arguably no finer way to create that via tie-dye.
It’s for that reason why we’ve just released three indigo tie-dye products – a T-shirt, polo shirt and a pair of socks – and one indigo dyed camp-collar shirt for a taste of high summer, all of which have been created exclusively for us by an old friend on the west coast of America. Sadly, we can’t reveal his name, but trust us when we say that he’s a master of all things indigo and dyeing, having studied extensively in Kojima in Japan. He has done an amazing job in creating a handful of truly unique indigo tie-dye products. He uses a natural dye process which takes time and patience, then adds a touch of Californian sunshine in the drying process. Before getting into them, though, it’s worth brushing up on a bit of history.
In essence, tie-dye is a type of ancient technique that falls beneath the umbrella of ‘resist-dyeing’, which means that sections of a piece of fabric are tied, banded or sectioned off to protect them from the dye. The process itself dates back to the 6th century, where it was used during the T’ang Dynasty in China and the Nara Period in Japan to decorate clothing and homes. Back then, humble and amatuer artisans would collect berries, leaves, roots, flowers and you name it, in a hunter-gatherer-esque way and extract the natural dyes and use them accordingly and in line with their culture. In the following centuries, other types of resist-dyeing started to be developed all over Asia, Africa and South America, and each one was capable of creating something truly brilliant.
Now, not to confuse things, but IKAT, is also a popular resist-dyeing process (this time coming from Indonesia) which we’ve used to create three products from our SS21 collection, including the Camp Collar Short Sleeve Shirt (Ikat Stripe). However, the fundamental difference is that the IKAT process occurs before the fabric is woven as the dye is applied to sections of the warp and weft, and so therefore the effect is different.
Back to tie-dye. If you were to fast forward to the 20th century, you wouldn’t miss much of tie-dyes history – there wasn’t much innovation nor promotion, and instead it stayed within communities. It eventually appeared in the U.S. sometime around 1910, but it was in the 1960s that it exploded in popularity and legend has it that a company called Rit was the catalyst. Rit produced household dyes for upholstery and not clothing, but the business wasn’t looking good. As such, it needed a new avenue which thankfully coincided with the hippie revolution.
Allegedly, an executive named Don Price introduced the company’s dyes to a handful of hippies in Greenwich Village in New York. They became obsessed by how easy it was to do and how on-brand it was with the psychedelia exploits, and so tie-dye’s popularity quickly snowballed. Events such as Woodstock Festival in 1969 played a huge role, too, as did the promotion that came from the likes of Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker and Jimi Hendrix who wore tie-dye garments on-stage and in front of thousands of fans in more than a trance-like state. Soon, it came to define one of the most famous movements of the 20th century, and therefore deserves its place in The Hall of Textile Fame.
Now, the fundamental difference between tie-dye garments worn by those care-free hippies and what we’ve produced is that our tie-dye garments are made using natural dyes. It’s the old-school and authentic way whereas, Rits’ (and many other manufacturers and brands then and today) were made using nasty and toxic synthetic dyes.
All the garments we’ve produced have been dyed using natural indigo powder, which is derived from the Indigofera tinctoria plant. It thrives in hot and humid areas, as such it’s indigenous to Asia and Africa – which brings the story full circle in some way. What we’ve always admired about indigo is that it has the miraculous ability of being able to produce a vast number of shades – from pale blue to almost black – and how, in the case of denim particularly, it evolves and takes on new shades through wear and washing, and this is what these garments will do.
Each product has been made one by one, which ensures that no two are the same. The T-shirt and cotton pique polo shirt are both heavy-duty Made in USA items, meanwhile the camp-collar shirt has been made by our partners in Chennai. As for the socks, they’ve been knitted in England like always.
Whatever your plans are this summer, injecting a bit of indigo splendour into your wardrobe will no doubt add a new dimension to your look. Not only has it got so much history, and a manufacturing process that’s truly authentic, but thanks to the generations who came before us, it also makes you feel good. Maybe not to the same level as the hippies at Woodstock, but we are all deserving of letting our hair down and enjoying ourselves this summer and these might be just the ticket.