The do-it-yourself route was partly born out of necessity. Several of Alabama Chanin’s go-to dye houses have shuttered over the years, making it increasingly difficult for the firm to obtain naturally dyed fabrics. For a brand founded on artisanal traditions, however, the “in-sourcing” also “just makes sense,” Natalie Chanin, Alabama Chanin’s namesake creative director, tells Ecouterre.
It helps that indigo is relatively accessible, if you can get the chemistry right. Ground into powder and allowed to ferment in solution, the leaves of the Indigofera plant create the “perfect dyestuff.” “It’s something you can do yourself,” she says. “It just takes a bit of maintenance to keep it going.”
The mutability of indigo makes for a diversity of hues, as well—something Chanin considers more of a feature than a flaw. “They have natural variations…they’re all completely unique,” she says of the spectrum, which can range from the palest lavender-gray to the deepest cobalt. “We love it; that’s always been part of who we are,” Chanin adds.
All of the indigo Alabama Chanin sources is organic, obtained from domestic suppliers such as Botanical Colors in Seattle and A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, Calif. A dye garden on Factory premises may not be long for the world, though; Chanin and company planted some indigo over the summer.
Don’t be surprised if other plant-based colors start rearing their heads, either. “We are very slowly expanding our color range and replacing every color,” Chanin says. “We’re taking slow, methodical steps in that direction.”