Indigo, the ‘Blue Gold’
Indigo is the name of the striking blue colour that appears when textile is dyed with a natural blue colourant that is traditionally extracted from plants from the Indigofera genus. People in Europe have loved the colour for centuries, nicknaming it the ‘Blue Gold’. Nearly all indigo used today is synthetic; only a very limited number of West Africans still produce indigo on a small scale in the traditional, natural way.
Wear history with Indigo Fashion
Indigo plays a significant role in history. The ancient Egyptians used plant-based indigo as a medicine and dye as early as 1550 BC. In the 16th century, the Portuguese brought it to Europe on board their ships. Here the beautiful intense blue colour immediately became popular and trade flourished. The German chemist Von Baeyer eventually succeeded in producing the colour artificially in the 19th century. Now indigo is found worldwide, including as a dye for jeans. Indigo Fashion aims to re-intensify the natural production of indigo.
From pigment to textile
Indigo is a challenging dye as it is not soluble in water, and dissolving it requires a chemical change. Our fabrics are immersed in water with indigo pigment by hand. The pigment comes from the leaves of indigo plants which have dissolved due to fermentation. The fabrics are immersed for 60 to 120 seconds one or various times depending on the fabric thickness. When the clothing is removed from the dye bath, the indigo reacts to the oxygen from the air and once again becomes insoluble. For the best result, the procedure is repeated four to six times.
The power of Indigo:
– Stunning deep-blue colour
– Natural resource: the indigo plant
– Natural dye process
During the dye process, we can add patterns to the (blue) colour in various ways; for instance, through the use of blue-dyed and undyed yarn, by wrapping the fabric and thus creating a pattern (ikat), or by cutting, knotting or folding. Another method involves covering parts of the fabric in mud, so that those segments do not absorb the dye and thus create undyed shapes. In Mali the fabric is whipped, like in China and around the Niger River, which makes the textile shine and sparkle. Indigo fabric is also an ideal basis for embroidery and applications to give the design an extra dimension.