Fashion, in many ways, is going back in time. And as time travel feels apropos for an ancient industry on the precipice of change, so does a return to a more “natural” way of doing things — natural dyeing, that is.
Natural dyeing is an Old World practice, rich with fascinating ancestral techniques that vary and evolve uniquely within cultures. The use of plants, insects, minerals and herbs was commonplace in antiquity, and many countries have continued to carry on their distinctive traditions: Weavers in Peru will use herbs such as yanali for bright yellows or kinsa k’uchu for teals and greens, and cochinilla, a parasitic insect for scarlet red hues; dye from the plant Indigofera tinctorial, or natural indigo, is said to have originated in India thousands of years ago, and serves as the basis for blue jeans; and in Mexico, the long-established practice of using tree lichen to dye wool remains a modern-day method for dyeing textiles.
Of late, the relevancy of natural dye has re-emerged, as becoming truly “sustainable,” for many, means going back to basics. And while in the past brands may have shied away from natural dyes due to understandably valid concerns — namely, color steadfastness — companies such as L.A.-based Tis-America offer its Eyand product, an ecologic yarn and natural dye range that is chemical free, saves energy and water, eco-friendly — and maintains color steadfastness. The firm is a U.S. subsidiary of the Tis-Group, a textile manufacturer and garment producer, based in Barcelona with offices in Italy, Portugal and Turkey.
With deep reddish browns such as “nutmeg”; an almost-beige called “autumn blonde”; a solid mocha named “iced coffee”; a soft gray labeled “moonstruck”; or “ambaro blue,” a bright cobalt, the Eyand range is wide ranging, and responsibly made.
Here, Matthew Tricarico, national sales director at Tis-America, discusses Eyand, the state of U.S. textiles and manufacturing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and the ever-evolving sustainability landscape.
WWD: As safety and precaution is now valued more than ever before, how is Eyand differentiated in the sustainability market? What are some of its unique features?
Matthew Tricarico: Eyand uses natural minerals on a pigment dye platform that is 100 percent chemical free. To make sure that our garments don’t present any residual chemical from previous dye loads, we have our own machines, which we only use for natural dyes, and have complete control of them, allowing us to guarantee that all the dyes used are 100 percent natural.
Another feature is our water saving system. We have developed innovative techniques to not only save up to 75 percent of water during the dye process, but also to make sure that the discarded water goes back to the environment uncontaminated.
Even though there are still some colors that we can’t achieve with natural dyes, we currently offer more than 50 colors that meet all the requirements for light fastness and wet/dry crocking for pigment. Our colors don’t wash off and show no shading. This list of 50 colors continues to grow every season.
WWD: How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted the U.S. textile industry? How has Tis-America had to pivot, and what is your outlook for the future?
M.T.: This crisis is putting a terrible strain on the entire global apparel and textile industry. I can guarantee there will be textile mills, apparel manufacturers and retailers that won’t make it, unfortunately.
At the time this crisis was brewing, we were all going about our daily function with production orders that were in process and developments for the following season were in process. Many investments were made. Then, we get word of a shut down, with millions of dollars are on the line. Much of this money will be lost. We are hopeful that we can salvage some of the production that was in process before the shut down, and that will help once we can reopen.
I am always optimistic, but realistically there be a lot of pain in the market to deal with first. I also believe that this will be a wakeup call to clean up our industry. The technology is getting better and better, and we are leading the way.
WWD: What was the inspiration behind developing Eyand? Are there any interesting anecdotes to share?
M.T.: This process was created to help the clothing industry on its path to be more environmentally conscious. Our wheels started to turn after realizing how much this industry pollutes while nobody was really talking about it. Most of the industries, like the automobile industry for instance, have been working on doing their part for a long time now, while the apparel industry was getting behind.
We had to do something about it. After experimenting with different processes for a very long time, we came found a method that allowed us to dye garments without chemicals, while getting good results in terms of light fastness and crocking.
The funny thing is that we came out with this definite method after trying to fix some samples that weren’t dyed correctly. When we thought we had the process fairly standardized, we started doing samples for some of our customers. Trying to fix one of the colors that wasn’t coming out well is how we discovered the essential step that we were missing — and that is now the key to our success.
WWD: How would you describe the current sustainability landscape in fashion? How has it evolved, and where is it going?
M.T.: Not so long ago, the answer to this question would have been easy: there was not sustainability in fashion. Luckily in the last few years the industry has taken a 180-degree turn and most of the companies are now looking at ways to contribute to a better and greener world. And this is possible thanks to the customers who became aware of the issue and are now demanding sustainable alternatives.
Sustainable certifications, such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or Oeko-Tex, are now playing an important role in the industry, since customers rely on them to make sure their clothing is being manufactured following strict and standardized parameters.
In short, we believe that the world is more aware now of the pollution problem and the industry is on the right track, but there is still a long way to go. From Eyand, we will continue working towards our goal: sustainable fashion for everyone.
WWD: Are there any new interesting technologies for textiles, dyeing or sustainability on the horizon? What’s next for Eyand?
M.T.: We are sure there are. The industry is experimenting with different techniques that will help optimize processes and save resources. A good example would be the latest project that Eyand is working on: dyeing without water. Our natural pigments are sprayed inside the dye machines while the tank rotates, creating a nebula around the garments that will in fact dye them. We are only in the beginning stages, but we are showing very good results so far.
We are also experimenting with new dye techniques, and most importantly, we are working on bringing the costs down. This is what will really make the difference — and allows sustainable fashion to reach every corner of the world.
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