As Kordal has grown and expanded over the years, it has been such a joy to explore the role that woven garments play in the brand. Sustainable principals are more naturally built into the way knitwear is produced, but with wovens it can get a little dicey if you're not diligent. That's why we're so excited to share the process with you this time around!
Mandy and I truly believe that each collection gets better and better, but we felt we really hit the jackpot with our sourcing and processes this season. Back in May we met up with our friend Liz from the Dogwood Dyer who mentioned a dye house in Pennsylvania scaling up the process of natural dyes for production. We connected with Winona Quigley from Green Matters Natural Dye Company the very next week and couldn't have been more excited to brainstorm on how we could collaborate together!
We started the process knowing that we wanted to work with raw silk, that we wanted some sort of yellow color, and that we wanted to use avocados from food waste and for their light pink hue. After seeing a couple samples, we settled on working with fustic (a type of wood) to achieve the honey-gold yellow that we were after. Then swatches were approved, sampling yardage was dyed, sample garments were made, and the production process began.
While familiar with natural dyes, Mandy and I are no experts in the process and we were learning along the way with Winona. We learned that both of the dyes we worked with (avocado and fustic wood) had a tannin base, which meant that they would darken over time and with UV exposure. Winona explained that they had started to understand this process more a few seasons ago. They developed a colorway using a tannin based dye; production was scheduled for 6 months after sampling, and they were having trouble matching the sample. But it wasn't until later that they realized the issue wasn't with the amount of dye being used, but simply that the sample had gotten darker over time.
It was so refreshing to hear the trials and errors of another small business, and her honesty and candor made me all the more comfortable to be working with her. An aside: last year after a particularly stressful production season, Mandy and I made a pact to work with "nice people only," something we now say often, and Winona definitely fits the bill (if you're reading this, we love you!!).
But anyways, back to the dyes! Once we found out about the darkening of the dyes – which is similar to the aging of vegetable tanned leather – of course I had more questions. When asked how much darker the colors could get, Winona informed us that from her experience wearing natural dyes, she found that the darkening tapered off.
She told us, "a great example is a two piece set I wore over the summer dyed in Cutch (a tannin based dye). I was on vacation, and the garments got wet while walking in the river. I hung them to dry in direct sunlight. The darkening was noticeable when comparing the inside of the garments to the outside where the fabric was exposed to UV. I continued wearing the set through the rest of the summer and into the fall, and I did not notice any significant darkening, even when I dried them in the sun. I have also found when doing UV exposure experiments, when I lay a partially covered swatch in the sun, then remove the covering a few days later, the color evens out. The area previously exposed does not continue to darken." It was so fascinating to learn this about natural dyes, and made me love the whole process even more!
Above are some photos of the avocado dyeing process. We are so thrilled to have partnered with an amazing company like Green Matters, run by such a knowledgeable, thoughtful, and kind woman like Winona.
A few weeks ago after New York was officially sheltered in place, Winona and I were chatting on Instagram. We were talking about the new challenges coming up from this situation and how hard it is for everyone, and then she asked me if I had enough crafting supplies to keep me busy. I had just picked up embroidery again and she offered to send me some embroidery floss that had been naturally dyed. "I'm happy to send mending materials, considering all it needs is a stamp 😊" her message read, and suggested that we surprise Mandy with some too.
Once I was asked what success (in the context of business) meant to me. I had thought about it for a long time, almost didn't even have an answer. But then all of a sudden it came to me: success is happiness, it's relationships. Success is when each person in each part of the process feels good. Because when we have that, I truly believe that people can see it and feel it in the products we're creating, together.
A couple final notes on how to care for your naturally dyed raw silk garments:
• Cold wash on delicate or hand wash with a pH neutral soap (when in doubt, Dawn dish soap is amazing!)
• Never use bleach or Oxyclean
• Garments should be stored out of the light; Blush and especially Saffron will darken when exposed to direct sunlight for a long period of time
• Natural dyes can be sensitive to acids, and immediate spot treatment with cold water is the best way to mitigate acid contact
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Algodones Mayas was founded 26 years ago by Luisa's parents with a goal of preserving the Guatemalan culture, the land, it's natural colors and motifs. To do this they grow and cultivate native pre-hispanic colored cotton. The thread derived from their cotton does not go through any dyeing process. They preserve 100% of the plant's natural colors: brown Ixcaco, raw white and jade green.
Over the past seven years it's been such a gift to see how our little brand has grown and evolved. From launching a Kickstarter project back in 2012 to quitting my freelance gigs a few years later to work on Kordal full time and hiring our first team member Jia Yee, we've reached milestones I couldn't have imagined. I'm still pinching myself that on November 30th, 2019 we opened the doors of our very own store.