Natural Dye

Collection: Contextualizing Fashion

Designer: Alexandra Biddle

Materials: Silk, onion skins

By Alexandra Biddle

When making or seeing beautiful textiles, often people do not know the cost it took on the environment. Before synthetic dyes and toxic wastes, fabrics and clothing were made from natural materials. Now, corporations feed on mass consumption and do whatever it takes to make more in less time.

On the idea of production, I was inspired by a quote from ​The Craftsman by Sennett, to look at this project as an act of combining craft and art. Sennett states, “the craftsman outward turned to his community, the artist inward turned upon himself” (65). His idea explains that craft involves the process of creation and the purpose for the result. As for the artist, they put in their emotions and desires into any piece they wish to create. Here, I experimented in developing a practice to incorporate in my artistic style with thinking for functionality and methods for designing.




These pieces of natural silk are all dyed with fresh onion skins. It is important for me as a fashion designer to learn how to use natural fabrics and dyes so I can consciously design in a matter of alignment with nature. Around the world, natural environments are being dumped with mass production of textile waste. In the article ​”The Dirty Secret about Your Clothes.” by Esha Chhabra, she discusses the production of textile manufactures on the Noyyal River. ​The Noyyal River in India is one that has been contaminated with countless of toxic metals and effluents. Not only is this a destruction of natural resources, but many people have gotten diseases from lead in the water. It is my goal to avoid as much unnecessary harm to our earth as I can.

The process of creating the patterns and deepness of color takes serious precautions and attention. As one of the less strenuous plants to dye with, I focused on ways to create patterns with the fabric while it soaked in the dye bath. Each piece of silk from start to end are used in my final for the documentation of time and growth. These experimentations with onion skin and natural silk are my first step into the world of sustainable fashion.