Our Fabrics Are the Treasures: Garment Dye 101
It’s more interesting to me. There’s a high-low look to it. When you see it in the store, it has some dimension to it.”
When you think about what you wear day in and day out, some of those “forever pieces” probably come to mind—the ones you’ve had for years. They’re those styles with emotional ties, marks of wear and love and maybe even a prime spot at the front of your closet where you always reach for them. Think of what else those garments probably have: a broken-in look and feel that can only be replicated by living in it.
Meet garment dye, the technique that gives new products the lived-in look and feel usually reserved for your old favorites. While the method itself isn’t new, the word seems to be resurfacing and at the tip of everyone’s tongues. So what is it exactly? We sat down with two of our fabric pros, Betsy and Margaret, to talk about what makes this process, and the clothes it creates, so unique.
HOW IT’S DONE
To start, Betsy and Margaret took us back to the basics of how clothes are made. Typically, you take the pre-dyed fabric, cut the pattern of what you want to make, like a t-shirt or a pair of shorts—and with a few finishing steps, you have a completed piece.
Garment dyeing, on the other hand, is where things get interesting. Instead of cutting clothes from pre-dyed fabric, we cut un-dyed fabric, sew the garment, then dye it—giving it a one-of-a-kind feel. It may sound like a small difference, but the end result is far from run of the mill. In fact, the final product is something that otherwise can only be replicated by good ole wear and tear.
“Garment dyeing is a way to produce clothing with a different outcome,” Margaret says. “If the designer wants a more casual look, they’re going to take the garment-dyed route because it fades more, and it looks more lived-in.” Betsy adds: “ There’s a high-low look to it. When you see it in person, it has dimension to it.”
“Getting the perfect balance of softness and strength can be a rigorous process,” according to Margaret. “We work with state-of-the-art factories that have a color lab and all of the machinery, ingredients and dye baths,” she says. “It’s such a chemistry for them. It’s amazing to see it come to life. We’ll give them inspiration and color, and they’ll send back options for us. It’s a trial-and-error thing, and you keep trying until you get where you want to be.”
CUT TO THE FEELING
What makes this technique such a big deal? It’s about the look as much as it is about the feel. Garment dyeing creates a one-of-a-kind product that’s ultra-soft (like a vintage score) with a finish that fades–slightly, in a stylish way–over the course of its life.
Don’t let the word “fade” scare you away, though. Our garment dye experts use careful methods to ensure the rich hues last far beyond the first wash and continue to feel soft and strong.
WEAR & CARE
Garment-dyed styles use a special technique to get their unique look and feel, but you should care for them just much as you would anything else you wear on repeat. Our advice: Wash them on cold and then hang them up to dry. This way, you’re preserving the fabric and giving your clothes a longer life while using fewer resources. For chinos and shorts, try skipping a wash or two and spot-cleaning instead. The worn-in look gives them that extra cool factor, anyway.