The serendipitous discovery of mauveine was a failed result of a professor’s challenge to an 18-year old William Henry Perkin to synthesized quinine. This failed attempt revolutionized the textile industry with the vividly colored purple dye that could be synthetically, mass-produced.
Dyes became brighter, less expensive, with more colors to choose from. But by 1950’s the laborers from the dye industry were found to have increased chances of having bladder cancer. Synthetic dye benefits have become more and more debatable over the centuries.
In 2013, EU member states voted for the banning of a substance called NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylates) commonly found in dyeing, scouring or cleaning agents in textiles and its wastewater production. NPE have been found to wreak havoc on fertility and sexual development when it has been degraded to the toxic NP (nonylphenol) in the environment. NP is most commonly found in jelly sandals and plastic components.
With the increased awareness on environmental and health concerns, the call for more “natural” dyes have grown louder. After all, you can’t sell if there’s nothing left to produce and no one left to sell it to.
Resource-rich Thailand have flourished as a hub for artisanal natural dyeing craft using plants and insects. Natural dye communities have been sprouting around the globe: from Cambodia’s Institute For Khmer Traditional Textiles, Avani organization from India, Malaysia’s Society Atelier Sarawak , Finland Varipaletti Project and Dobag Natural Dye Project of Germany.
With the slant of the world today, our biodiverse Philippine islands should have pockets—if not societies—of this artisanal and cultural creative communities. With this in mind, MATIC begins a new series on D.I.Y Dyes that tells us what we have all along.