NATURAL & BOTANICAL DYES
Synthetic dyeing poisons workers, their families, the air, soil and rivers. The standard industrial dyeing process uses over 8000 chemicals. Such synthetic dyes have been linked to various diseases, to birth defects and cancer. The dyeing and treatment of textiles is responsible for 17-20% of global fresh water pollution; gallons of toxic pesticides and dyes are distributed into rivers every year, resulting in contaminated water for both local wildlife and citizens.
With its emphasis on ecological and sustainable production, AK Threads source all their dyes from plants, botanicals and natural materials that use no chemicals, waste minimal amounts of water, reduce CO2 emissions, and remain biodegradable. We ensure that no one in our source and supply chains is exposed to any associated risk.
Natural dyeing and an emphasis on high-quality products directly improve the livelihoods of artisans and their communities, and generate more employment through increased hand-work.
Natural dyes have suffered from a reputation for tending to fade quickly. Our dyeing partners have organised their production to prevent this, utilising a three-day bathing process in a natural fixative to set the colour to the fibre.
We have chosen natural dyeing methods also for the distinctive, 'raw' hues they create; the result is that each piece is unique and conveys something of its own character.
True indigo (Indigofera tinctoria): once plucked from the plant, the leaves are dipped in water to extract the indigo dye;
Recycled iron: discarded pieces of iron, such as rusty nails, are collected and fermented to achieve deep black. Fermented iron is not plant-based but is still considered a natural or earth dye because it is a naturally-occurring element;
Indian madder (Rubia cordifolia): this is a flowering plant of the coffee family whose roots are harvested in central India to produce our red and brown hues;
Jaggery cane sugar: jaggery is a traditional unrefined sugar used in the production of our beige, black and grey tones;
Pomegranate (Punica granatum): the high tannin content in pomegranates means they react with iron to create deep moss and grey shades.
BANANA FIBRE PEACE SILK
Exclusive to the latest edition, we have sourced banana fibre as an additional natural fabric material. The result is a highly sumptuous fabric, similar to silk; it is biodegradable, vegan, ethically manufactured, and its production is almost carbon neutral.
Banana fibre production has been around since the early 13th century. Originating in Japan, it has since spread to India; its popularity has grown due to its low ecological impact compared to other fibre production, such as cotton and silk.
Typically, when bananas are harvested from trees, the banana stalks are seen as waste and subsequently burnt. An eco-alternative to this is to extract yarn from the stalks by means of a machine. These machine are both inexpensive and simple to use, which means they are highly accessible to banana farmers.
AK Threads works with communities of artisans in South India, who turn this yarn into fabric. The process is an extensive one: all the steps - spinning, dyeing and weaving - are implemented by hand. The manufacture is an ecologically-safe and ethically-minded operation, intended to ensure real benefit to the local populations.
This natural fibre from the stem of the banana tree and is extremely durable. It is comparable to bamboo but with greater spin-ability and strength. Banana silk, as it is also called, has a notable fineness, is soft and breathable, and also a natural organic sorbent.
Khadi is a word used to describe hand-spun and hand-woven cloth in India. Simple but elegant, khadi is a modest and traditional process; completely created by hand, it requires no electricity.
This practice itself was brought to light and supported by Mahatma Ghandi’s khadi movement, providing villagers with a path to self-sufficiency. Indeed, khadi still enriches and empowers small communities in rural India, offering a means to economic independence.
Around 70% of the artisans involved in khadi production are women. At AK Threads, we work with organisations that support the women working in this highly-skilled craft, providing facilities such as on-site day care and child health and social-welfare check ups.
By choosing hand-loomed fabrics, AK Threads plays a role in preserving this craftsmanship, empowering these artisans, and increasing employment rates in rural communities where such fabrics are traditionally made. This manufacture uses no water or chemicals, and produces no C02 emissions, making it non-toxic for those involved.
The benefits of hand-spun, hand-woven fabrics are clearly extensive, affecting producers and consumers alike. In addition to their ethical and ecological considerations, we choose khadi fabrics for their high quality, their distinctive characteristics, and the notable softness and comfort they provide.
Khadi production is a slow and intricate process: looms can 15 to 20 days to set up, per style of fabric and garment; 1 metre of fabric can require work from 15 pairs of hands and take half a day to produce. The yarn is more natural as it is untreated and unprocessed, creating high quality fabric, producing garments that are noticeably comfortable and breathable. The result is luxurious linen clothing, each piece uniquely texured. The exclusive properties of the weave mean the garments will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter; and the more it is washed, the better it looks and feels, supporting our trans-seasonal design ethos.
The alignment of tradition and innovation in organic farming promotes fair trade and an improved quality of life and product for everyone involved. Organic cotton actually produces a better-quality fibre. It is one of the most dependable sources in the supply chain for ensuring sustainable production. It produces fewer harmful emissions and therefore has less impact on air pollution; it results in 71 % less water wastage; and it uses 62% less energy. Furthermore, organic cotton production diminishes soil damage, preserves wildlife and biodiversity, and helps build and sustain communities.
The textiles we use are predominantly organic, grown from plants free of hazardous pesticides and synthetic dyes, thereby protecting the environment, the farmers, the workers and your own skin from harmful toxins and chemicals. Organic cotton growers and textile workers benefit by avoiding health problems and diseases associated with non-organic production; water systems remain uncontaminated and suitable for drinking; and organic farming also reduces production costs and farmer debt when compared to conventional farming, thus improving welfare and supporting livelihoods.
Organic farming does come with associated risks through potential loss of crops or smaller harvests. The price of organic cotton includes investments made by farmers to protect and preserve the environment, and its biodiversity, and their own local communities. This is why premium market costs and fair pay are so important.