NATURALLY DYED CLOTHING

At Arms of Andes, sustainable production is our goal. We already to do a lot - keeping our carbon footprint low with single sourcing and using one of the most sustainable technical fibers around - but we want to do more.

So, we decided to welcome in a new era of NATURAL COLOURS!

Colouring Textiles

For thousands of years, cultures around the world have added colour to their clothing and textiles using plants, animals and minerals from their environment. But the modern clothing industry has all but forgotten about natural pigments, because synthetic dyes are cheap, can be completely standardized, and are easy to use on an industrial scale. The flip side of this however, is that synthetic dyes can be bad for the environment, as well as for the people who work with them and even sometimes those who wear them.

Natural dyes, on the other hand, are notoriously difficult to work with. Since the pigments are generally extracted from living organisms, it is almost impossible to standardize the colour: one harvest of cochineal bugs may have a much higher concentration of carminic acid (the colourant) than the next; and the quantity of the fixing agent (usually a mineral salt like citric acid or alum) can also change the tone or intensity of the colour. When working with natural pigments, yarns, fabrics and garments are usually dyed in very small batches, by hand, which means that colours will unavoidably vary slightly from batch to batch.  

Why Use Natural Dyes ?

Since they're tougher to deal with, you might wonder why anyone would choose natural dyes over synthetics. The main reason: natural colourants can generally be considered to be much more eco-friendly than synthetics, and as a bonus, are biodegradable (meaning they can degrade naturally, without releasing harmful chemicals or particles into the environment). In fact, by using natural dyes and cotton for the stitching and labels, our line of t-shirts is now 100% biodegradable! On top of this, we love the beautiful tones that natural dyes give: softer and more subtle, but somehow so bold and striking at the same time!

The ancient civilizations of Peru - from the Moche to the Inca – used natural dyes, so Arms of Andes decided to bring these traditional practices and knowledge into the world of modern outdoor apparel.

The Natural Colours We're Using

COCHINEAL

What is it?

Cochineal is a scale insect that lives parasitically on the pads of the prickly pear cactus. 

How is the pigment extracted?

The insects are harvested from the cacti, dried out and ground. The resulting powder contains carminic acid, which is boiled in water before the yarn/fabric and mineral salts are added. 

What is the resulting colour?

RED (Anywhere from crimson to scarlet)

INDIGO

What is it?

Indigofera tinctoria is a plant in the bean family that grows around the world. The oldest piece of fabric dyed with indigo was found in Peru, from around 6,000 years old.

How is the pigment extracted?

The leaves are soaked in water and then left to ferment, converting the naturally present chemical, indican, to indigoton, the blue pigment.

What is the resulting colour?

INGIDO BLUE

NATURAL WHITE

What is it?

There are around 22 natural colours of alpaca fiber, but white alpacas are the most commonly bred, due the versatility of the wool.

How is the pigment extracted?

There's no extraction involved here: the wool is naturally white! Once the fleece is sheared, trained fiber sorters, classify the  fibers by diameter and colour.

What is the resulting colour?

NATURAL WHITE

PURPLE CORN

What is it?

Purple corn - or Maiz Morado, as it's known in Peru - is a kind of maize with hard, deeply pigmented kernels. It originated in and is grown across northern South America.

How is the pigment extracted?

The corn kernels and husks have a high concentration of chemical compounds called anthocyanins. When boiled in water, the deep purple colour is released.

What is the resulting colour?

SILVER & CHARCOAL

How do I Care For My Naturally Dyed Clothes?

It’s easy to get put off by buying natural fibers like alpaca wool or fabrics that are naturally coloured, because of the perceived difficulty of caring for such items.  But don’t worry, we have done extensive testing to help making caring for your naturally dyed alpaca wool outdoor apparel easy! Below are a few tips:

  • Since alpaca wool is odour resistant, you shouldn’t need to wash it too regularly. Airing out or rinsing in clean water is usually enough.
  • Our clothes are now machine washable, but make sure to use a cold water, gentle cycle and a mild detergent to ensure they last as long as possible.
  • The dye will likely tint the washing water, so wash with similar colours only, but don’t worry, the colour of your garment won’t be changed.
  • When drying, it’s best to lie the garment flat, out of direct sunlight. Tumble drying should be avoided as it likely will shrink your clothes, but alpaca wool dries pretty quickly, so it won't take long.
  • If you feel it’s necessary, you can iron your alpaca wool clothes on a warm setting. 
  • The wool and dyes are affected by chemicals, so you should avoid dry cleaning and using fabric softeners or bleach.  

Please note that our colours are natural and that each garment is hand-dyed, so no one else will have the exact same colour as you! Though natural dyes are environmentally friendly, protective to skin and pleasing colour to eyes, they are having poorer bonding with textile fibre materials, which may lead to slight colour changes when sweating or rubbing and leaching of colours, so it is recommended to use it with dark clothes or backpacks. We also recommend washing your clothing as little as possible, to make sure the unique colour lasts longer.  To find out more, see our Alpaca Wool Care page.

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By choosing natural fibers and dyes for your clothes, you can help reduce the impact that the clothing industry has on our environment. Arms of Andes makes choosing natural for your travel and outdoor apparel easy, by using 100% alpaca wool fabric and 100% natural colours.

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