This designer developed a safer, simpler, and healthier solution to conventional fabric dye—using scraps of old fruits and veggies.
In the United States alone, more than 15 million pounds of textile waste is generated each year. In response to the environmentally harmful practices of fast fashion—a business model that prioritizes quick and cheaply made garments over long-lasting quality and fair workers’ wages—some brands and designers are making ethically sourced materials and manufacturing processes a production requirement.
Nicole Stjernsward, a London-based design technologist, has developed a system for dyeing fabric that could soon become a critical device for companies divesting from harmful production practices. Kaiku is a project that turns fruit and vegetable peels into powder pigment. Through the use of vaporization technology, Stjernsward’s system can essentially convert what you’d normally compost into vivid colors, ripe for fabric dyeing.
“Paint used to be made with local materials using recipes that only required a few ingredients. Most of the ingredients were things commonly found in your kitchen, such as casein and quark from milk,” says Stjernsward. While mineral pigments were historically made with natural sources like soil and clay, “more exotic colors were extracted from local plants or wildlife,” she adds.
Today, paint companies focus on having the most durable and vibrant pigments, which are often full of inexpensive petrochemical feedstocks, which are essentially used to derive the paint’s ingredients.
“The downside to modern paint’s performance is its impact on the environment during both paint manufacturing and at the end of a product’s life cycle. For example, pigment waste often leaks into surrounding landscapes, poisoning water and soil for humans and animals,” says Stjernsward. Beyond paint’s effect on the environment, synthetic colors are widely perceived to be hazardous to the health of humans and animals.
Kaiku provides a necessary alternative to these chemical colors by using food waste as a source of sustainable color creation.