Living Colour — A sustainable approach to dying textiles in collaboration with Puma.
The fashion industry is a rapidly adaptive sector that is constantly changing, it seems as though every day there is a new cut, colour or style emerging. Sometimes we consume without thinking about the effect we are having on the beautiful planet we live upon. Textile dying is terrible for the environment, something needs to be done and maybe Living Colour is the answer…
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation the fashion industry uses around 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, this is equivalent to 74,000,000 swimming pools (25m length). Finishing and dyeing are the highest pollutants within the industry, finishing is when chemicals are applied to fabrics to give them the desired look or feel whether that be via bleaching, softening, water-resistance or anti-wrinkle. Huge amounts of water and chemicals also go in the dying process to ensure colours don’t fade or wash out, this can be both vivid colours or subtle, pastel ones. In Bangladesh which is the second largest clothing manufacturer after China there are images that can be found of rivers that have become black, thick and tar like thus killing all the fish and wildlife in the area. We cannot allow this to become the norm as the industry keeps on growing and fast fashion takes over, now is the time to act and maybe Puma’s Living Colour project could be the answer that is needed.
There are a wide range of toxic chemicals that are currently used throughout the clothing dye process, many are lethal to human life or dramatically in one way or another impact the planet we are living upon. Lets say for examples sake you are an extravagant human being that enjoys wearing clothing that stands out via their bright, in your face colours. Well, these items would usually be dyed using a process that involves Lead as one of the main ingredients, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive lead exposure can affect the state of the whole body. Exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney/brain damage. Very high lead exposure can cause death. Children feel the toxic effects much worse from smaller amounts of exposure, Lead poisoning has occurred in children whose parents accidentally brought home lead dust on their clothing and caused Neurological effects or even intellectual disability. If Lead causes such a terrible reaction in humans then imagine what it does to animals such as fish, birds and other wildlife that may live in the areas effected by production. If Lead is being regularly dumped into rivers, canals or lakes then it will not only effect the humans in the area but also any other inhabitant.
So what is different about Living Colour you ask?
“ Living Colour explores an alternative to synthetic textile dyes derived from petrochemicals by using natural occurring bacteria that produce pigments, as well as creating a new natural aesthetic.” — Laura Luchtman and Ilfa Siebenhaar
“ The bacteria we use protects this salamander from a deadly fungus. We used the fluid shapes of the redback salamander combined with gender neutral silhouettes. For example the seamless panels in the windbreaker jacket refer to the round lines of the salamander.” — Laura Luchtman and Ilfa Siebenhaar
If the fashion industry were to follow a similar route and use natural occurring bacteria to create pigments then we wouldn’t see the over pollution or black rivers that we see in places like Bangladesh or China, we must think outside the box to create new concepts that can force change within the industry. Living Colour is not just a way of dying clothing but a way of slowing pollution by not just being a colour but an actual living thing!
The concept of a bacterial pigment for dying garments is great but to really make it work some products had to be produced that would stand out from the crowd as to draw people to the project itself. The best way to do this was to look back to Puma’s past and have a bit of a revamp. The garments you see are classics such as the T7 jacket which also uses a hemp blend to stay in tune with the design identity. These garments from within the archives have been re-styled in a way that is stylish yet subtle and meets the projects gain without fuss. The naturally occurring pigment gives a wonderfully unique shade to the garments and its little burst of colour shows the life within. I’m sure many would love to get their hands on these extra special, living garments, we hope to see another range in the future that bursts with other shades and makes fellow Fashion Designers think outside the box.
If we can begin to think outside of the box in terms of the way as humans we create products then we can produce unique, stylish items that don’t damage the planet that we live upon. The concept of consumerism is hated by many but the reality is that in the short term it isn’t going anywhere, instead of fighting to stop consumerism maybe instead we need to inspire consumers to buy products that help our planet rather than kill it. Products like these do exactly that, they are cool, unique and stylish and as an end product help aid our progression as a civilization plus will also help slow the progression and fingers crossed, stop climate change before it’s too late.