Image via Blue Blue Japan.

Sydney’s has always been fascinated by indigo blue. Indigo, largely associated with the colour of denim, is amongst the oldest dyes to be used for textile dyeing and printing.  Historically, indigo was a natural dye extracted from plants. This process was once very important economically because blue dyes were quite rare.  It is believed that indigo dyeing started in India, the earliest major center for its production and processing.  Today, several thousand tons of indigo is produced each year, though it is done so synthetically. It is the blue of blue jeans.

Chunked natural indigo. Source: Natashalh

Indigo dye is a quite tricky to work with as it isn’t water soluble and doesn’t bind to fabric unless the dye vat is deprived of oxygen.

Interesting fact: Urine is sometimes used in the indigo dyeing process as it provides the alkalinity that the indigo needs, and it ferments and therefore depletes oxygen in the solution.

Garments are dyed in a pure indigo dye bath. Image via Blue Blue Japan.

Blue Blue Japan does not use synthetic indigo to dye their garments. They instead use pure indigo.  This use of pure indigo allows the garments to fade and produce a unique, personalized texture or “imprint of the wearer. ” In addition, Blue Blue Japan leaves the garments unprocessed after dyeing them, which contributes to the wonderful wabi sabi effect as the garment ages.

Blue Blue Japan cotton lace blazer and vest. Available now at Sydney’s.

To dye their garments, Blue Blue Japan dips the products into a pure indigo dye bath, and then the garments are left to drip dry and oxidize. It takes about 3-4 dips to create a medium depth indigo color. To create an extremely deep indigo color, it sometimes takes 14-15 dips, this process will generally take a few months to complete.

Blue Blue Japan recommends their organic garments to be worn over and over again, washed regularly to keep them clean and then to simply allow the natural passing of time handle the rest.

Some might say that a few months to make a single garment is far too long, but it sounds just about right to us.

Blue Blue Japan pure indigo "ITAJIME" dyed cotton shirt. A pure indigo dyed product, the color will continue fading with every wash.
Blue Blue Japan pure indigo “ITAJIME” dyed cotton shirt. A pure indigo dyed product, the color will continue fading with every wash. Image via Blue Blue Japan. Available in store now.