Indigo Dye: Natural vs. Synthetic
What's the difference, why should you care?
When we decided to use indigo dye to hand dye a portion of the items in our newest collection, we knew natural indigo was the only way to go. Sure, it's expensive and fairly time consuming, but going any other route would have been in direct opposition to the values at the core of Deco Denim. Here's why...
When it comes to the chemical makeup of synthetic vs. natural indigo, there isn't a huge difference. If you were to test the compounds of a garment dyed with each type of indigo, it would be difficult to distinguish between the two.
Upfront, the biggest difference is the price- it's much more expensive to purchase natural indigo. At a 94% concentration, synthetic indigo goes for about $3/lb. whereas natural indigo at a 20% concentration is $55/lb.
If you were to stop there and not look any further, it's easy to understand the appeal of synthetic indigo. It has a higher concentration (which means deeper blues), for less money. However, synthetic indigo is produced using petroleum, which requires crude oil to create. Crude oil is a naturally occurring, non renewable resource, and the refining or burning of it means it's not sustainable or eco-friendly.
The majority of brands who use indigo to dye fabrics are using synthetic. This is usually a cost-saving measure, but for some it could also be an issue of availability. Natural indigo is rarely available as an option at the mills that produce most of the world's yarns and fabrics.
One company helping pave the way towards improving accessibility of natural indigo is Stony Creek Colors. We used their natural indigo and partnered with Whimsy Makes to ensure each of the indigo dyed garments in the new collection align with our values of sustainability and ethical fashion.