Why plant dye?

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Our Mama Earth truly never loses its magic. On top of feeding billions of people on earth every day, orchestrating the wind and the sky, and directing the movements of all living creatures, she—as if hasn’t got enough to do—makes sure every single aspects of the earthly produce is useful, reusable, and beautiful.

Take a majority of plants on earth (beets, avocado, turmeric, coffee, sunflower petals –you name it!) and boil it in hot water and within an hour or so, you’ll have yourself a bucket of dye to color various linens. It’s a natural coloring agent that’s kind to Mama Earth and doesn’t harm anyone in the process.

Yet the majority of times we dismiss this natural process as being too old-fashioned and slow, preferring the regularity of synthetic dyes from big-chain stores that has caused deadly damage to local workers on the other side of the world. Yes, it’s happening and we better begin to pay attention!

In the places where a majority of our clothes are made, such as China, synthetic dyes make some parts of the river highly toxic to the point that it’s dangerous to even swim there.

That is why, it's an extremely important step for me to start NEBA with the right process and intention, including using natural dyes on our kimonos.

At NEBA, we use plants and barks that are local to producers. To create a soft leafy-green hue, we use Ketapang (Indian almond leaves) and Tarum (indigo leaves), both grow abundantly in this tropical island. Ketapang is a towering tree that comforts people from the scorching sun and is typically found lining the sidewalks, while Tarum is a bush-like plant that is famous for its natural indigo blue color. These plants look so utterly ordinary and common in everyday life that no one would imagine their secret power to give lives to fabrics.

For brown kimonos, we use Mahogany and Secang bark that are also available all over the archipelago. Dip any clothes in a bucket of these barks’ essence and you’ll get a reddish brown hue—a gorgeous warm-earthy tone that is perfect for any day-to-night events.

Aside from dying linens, these plants are also used as medicinal herbs, so there you go—prove that these natural agents are just as capable to produce gorgeous colors that blend seamlessly with nature without harming the environment.

After 14 years in the high-end fashion industry in Europe, followed by 2 years of minimalist living and traveling across Asia which led me to all sorts of sustainable living, including using non-toxic, earth-friendly coloring agent, this made me wonder: why don’t we do this earlier ?

It became all clear that the fashion industry is dirty and needs a clean up. It feels as a human responsibility to buy less clothes, more quality and durability, less quantity. To support each and everyone in their health.

To create something beautiful and consciously made is a true pleasure to the soul. Good to our nature and good for all human beings.



Ilse BosComment