This trendy hot pink color or bright, vibrant green is pleasing to the eye – but synthetic dyes can be problematic for the environment, damaging water systems with their runoff. Even natural dyes need fixing agents that can damage their environment if used in excessive amounts.
An estimated 20% of waterway pollution is caused by the textile industry, says Orr Yarkoni, CEO and founder of Colorifix, a startup that seeks to make dyes less toxic.
In 2013, Orr was conducting research in Nepal to better understand just how deep the pollution of rivers and bodies of water is. “We were looking at chemicals like arsenic and heavy metals, but when we asked locals what was wrong, we found out that they were chemicals from the making of textiles.”
This led him to start a business that creates organic dyes. Unlike other innovations in this space, Orr has been able to create a product that works in tandem with existing supply chains in fashion. So this means that dye houses and manufacturers don’t have to drastically change their methods, and they’ll also save water (almost 50%) and energy (up to 30%) in the process. , Yarkoni said.
âWhen I first showed it people were nervous. But when they see the color charging overnight, thanks to the bacteria, then they transfer the liquid from the dye machine and see the whole thing. of the process, they begin to understand it, “he explains.” In fact, in one installation, a man stood in front of the machine for two hours with his hands crossed to see the transformation of the colors. couldn’t believe it and called his boss to see it.
While some may have been skeptical or astonished by Colorifix’s technology, Pangaia, a brand known for marrying technology, innovation and fashion, has been keeping an eye on organic dyes for some time, says Amanda Parkes, chief innovation officer at Pangaia.
This winter, the brand is launching their very first clothing capsule using Colorifix technology. âRather than tapping into nature, together we learn. We have replicated the DNA codes of pigments found in nature and, with the help of amazing microbes, have created unique shades with no harmful chemicals, no bulk supply chain, and less water and energy used. Â», She explains.
While the Colorifix approach is a bit more expensive, Yarkoni admits, it is cheaper than some of the eco-friendly dyes on the market, and as the cost of manufacturing rises due to inflation, “we’ll be on par with the rest of the industry, âhe says.
Are there any downsides? Yarkoni and his team haven’t figured out how to apply the dye to all materials – they’ve mostly focused on natural fibers and haven’t made denim yet. Plus, they develop colors every week, adding to their collection; black is a color that they are still developing.
âHarnessing the power of microorganisms to create a natural dye is just the beginning of how bio-manufacturing can fundamentally transform manufacturing,â says Parkes.
Colorifix, which has worked with brands such as H&M and Stella McCartney, is excited to find partners in the fashion industry who are keen to experiment. This particular collection with Pangaia features two natural pigments – blue and pink – and includes a hoodie and sweatpants, available on the Pangaia site from November 30.
âOur goal was really to create something that could benefit everyone – the people in the industry, the people who wear the clothes and the people who live in these communities where the clothes are dyed,â Yarkoni explains.