Some of them you can eat, they grow everywhere and they have untapped potential. No, we’re not talking about wild berries, but about fungi! And not the type to use on a lovely pizza or in pasta, but rather fungi that can create colors. Yes, you heard that right!
Rotterdam-based designer Ilse Kremer has been working for a few years to create a natural dye, made from a variety of fungi. Born from a graduation project, Ilse started Fabulous Fungi and has made it her mission to replace the many toxic dyes in the fashion industry. In this blog, we talk with Ilse about her mission and the implications of innovation in the textile industry.
“I’ve always loved bright colors, but when I saw pollution that many dyes in the fashion industry bring, I wanted to create something that is better for the environment.”
The textile industry has major effects on the environment and dyes play a big role in that. Most of the fancy, bright colors that you see being used by big brands come from harmful chemicals. It would be one thing if these were handled properly, but in many countries where clothing is colored, regulations are not that strict, which can lead to vast unnecessary pollution of the environment.
Ilse saw this problem and wanted to tackle it. When she first started, she was looking into different dyeing materials, such as herbs and food waste. But when she came across fungi, she saw an unmatched versatility in colors and brightness, that was hard to replicate with other materials. This is when she started to focus on fungi, and her company Fabulous Fungi was born, where she partnered up with an expert on fungi: Nick van Biezen from Bio-aNAlytiX van Biezen.
“I try to stay positive and believe that people will become more and more conscious in the coming years about the impact that their clothes have”
A First Start
When we first heard about what Ilse was doing, we were immediately excited about the possibility of including this in our sportswear collection. While we already only work with OEKO-TEX certified dyes, the thought of using more locally produced and nature-based dyes is something that aligns with our vision of a sustainable future for the industry.
But I can hear you think “that all sounds nice in theory, but how can you apply that in practice?” Well, for that point we can listen to what Dutch legend Cruyff once said: Most of the times something needs to happen, before something can happen”. And that is what we are going to do!
Early next year, we will be launching our first collaborative t-shirt, dyed with locally grown fungi. There will be many challenges with these new materials, as they are a novel technology, but those learning lessons are what makes pioneering fun in our opinion.
“People these days are throwing away their clothing after barely using them. Redyeing provides an opportunity to let people enjoy their clothing for longer periods”
Challenges for this project
One main thing we are still struggling with is the fading of colors, as there is still much to figure out on how to get these colors to stick on plant-based fabrics. But this is when our gears start to turn; what if instead of seeing this as a problem, we can use it to our advantage? Dyeing your blue t-shirt again in red (as you might all of a sudden feel the Christmas vibe), instead of having to buy a new t-shirt might have a lot of benefits.
With the first t-shirts, we are also going to provide a ticket for a re-dye experience, where the pioneers who want to use the products can dye them again if they have faded a little. This will hopefully bring people closer in their relationship with the products that they wear, which have been completely taken away by fast fashion.
The end goal will be to create all of the colors that we use with dyes made from fungi or other plants, but that might take a while to get there. As for innovations like these, lots of time and resources are needed and we are still a very small brand with limited options.
If you are curious about the next steps with this project, make sure to follow @fabulous_fungi on Instagram and keep an eye out for the release of our first collaborative products.
We believe that collaborations like these are what will drive the clothing industry toward a better future. Combining nature with new technologies and brands can offer better products for people and the planet.