Sustainable Dyers, an interview with Hannah Victoria (Part1)

Hanna Victoria is an ethical designer, vegan, and plant-based dyer living in the U.K. She is currently launching her own independent design collection.


Hannah Victoria

She has in-depth scope of textile work and fashion.  Her natural dye approach incorporates the use of organic materials, fair trade cotton and vegan products to promote a zero waste initiative.  Hannah shares her story and the most important lesson she has learned on her journey.

How many years have you been studying textiles and sustainability?

I achieved a qualification in fashion design when I was 18 years old in 2006. I then attended the University of Manchester and completed my BSc in Management and Marketing of Textiles. I spent several years after that working in a management position in the fashion industry. After witnessing the fast fashion business model take over the industry, I became increasingly frustrated.

I wanted to communicate to the world it is no longer acceptable for western clothing companies to ignore basic human and animal rights as well as polluting the environment at an unsustainable rate, all while generating colossal profits. As a long-term activist that believes workers and animals should be able to live free from exploitation and abuse, it was a natural progression for me to return to university to complete my MA in Textile Design in order to combine my two greatest passions, fashion and ethical concerns.

My final academic year was spent carrying out extensive research into ethical and sustainability solutions for the fashion industry. Along with trend based research, extensive investigation was also carried out into ethical and sustainable materials that could be used for my collection. This included all materials from the fibres, fabrics, threads, trims, packaging and marketing materials. There also had to be integrity in the aesthetics of my collection.

Hannah Victoria uses organic fabrics and vegan dyes

Hannah Victoria uses organic fabrics and vegan dyes

The challenge was to balance the two issues. There was also consideration for the human rights of the workers involved in all stages of the supply chain along with being environmentally sympathetic, as conscious consumers are often interested in all these issues.

My overall aim is to educate consumers about their impact and how their purchasing power and shopping habits can lead to positive changes within the industry. I am committed to building an informed society where the supply chain is transparent and fashion is no longer treated as a disposable product.

What are your suggestions for vegans starting out with DIY dyes?

I think it is important for anyone starting out in vegan dyeing that the process is enjoyable and fun with impressive results. I would suggest choosing dyes that are easy to source and affordable. When I first began experimenting with natural dyes I dyed small swatches of cotton with onionskins, avocado skins, turmeric and tea. These are ingredients that are readily available in most people’s kitchens.

Vegetable skins and used teabags are often considered waste so why not repurpose them and create something lovely in the process? I would also suggest soaking the fabric in soya milk before dyeing as this acts as an effective mordant. A mordant fixes the dye to the fabric and makes the colours much more vivid and bold.

Organic dyeing with flowers

Organic dyeing with flowers

Creating block colours is a good place to start with natural dyeing. You will soon discover your favourites and will be ready to experiment further. A slightly more complex dyeing method in which the possibilities are endless is a technique called shibori. This is a form of manipulating fabrics through folding or gathering and then securing the shapes with either stitching or clamps.

This takes place before the dyeing stage and allows complex visual effects to be created as the dyes only penetrate certain areas of the cloth. The results are stunning and unpredictable which adds to the excitement of natural dyeing.

Once a level of confidence has been gained I would recommend flower dyeing as the results are striking and completely unique. Flower dyeing is a form of eco printing in which the flowers print directly onto the area of fabric. There are different methods that can be used to achieve relatively similar results.

The flower bundling process

The flower bundling process

The method I personally favour is bundling. This involves laying out flowers onto a flat piece of fabric before tightly wrapping it up into a bundle and securing it with string. The bundle is then placed into a pot of hot water and left for approximately one hour before removing and allowing to cool. When I first discovered this method I was always too impatient and would open the bundle as soon as the fabric had cooled sufficiently. However, I have learned that leaving the bundle wrapped up for a few days allows the depth of colour to develop further. It is often tricky to resist but having the willpower really will create beautiful results.

Continue to part two here

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About the Author

Cindy Rangel is an entrepreneur and founder of Nomada Co, a sustainable travel handbag company in pre-launch phase. She loves all things sustainable fashion, writing, and photography. Join her on her journey for news, interviews, travel stories and the launch of NOMADACO in June 2017.  

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