Blue Indigo in a Nutshell

My latest obsession is with indigo dye, traditionally used to color textiles for centuries. I became fascinated with indigo through my interest in Japanese denim. Japanese denim stands out for its use of natural indigo dye instead of synthetic dyes. Indigo-dyed clothing develops a deep, rich blue color that ages more beautifully than synthetic dyes.

Indigo has a rich yet tumultuous history. It’s been the cause of many wars, revolts, and exploitation. In India, it was referred to as Blue Gold” due to its challenging production process and high market prices on the Silk Road. In the past, Japanese samurai wore Indigo for its visual appeal and supposed antibacterial properties. Culturally, it was a symbol of status and luxury only worn by royal families due to its rarity (hence the name Royal Blue”). Then with the introduction of synthetic indigo, The working class started wearing the color for workwear like jeans, shirts, and uniforms, leading to a shift in Indigo’s perception from a luxurious and elite fabric to a more versatile and practical option for everyday wear.

Synthetic Indigo almost ended the 4000-year-old tradition of natural indigo dyeing. Some artists and craftsmen in India, Japan, and Southeast Asia are preserving this ancient tradition. The production of natural indigo is slow and time-consuming requiring cultivation, harvesting, fermenting, and processing the indigo leaves which can take up to a year of manual labor.

Here are a few videos on the process of dyeing Indigo if you want to explore further:

  1. The Link Between Japanese Samurai and Real Indigo
  2. In Search of Indigo
  3. The Secret of Japan Blue | A story of an Indigo dyeing craftsman
March 23, 2024

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