Most people probably don’t know what makes their jeans blue, but indigo plants and dyes have been producing our favorite color for thousands of years. In the early 20th century, chemists began making synthetic indigo dye from petroleum, which helped fuel the runaway success of denim and the blue jeans industry. But natural indigo is back in a big way, thanks to Stony Creek Colors and our friend, Sarah Bellos.
A Tennessee-based Natural Dye Company
Sarah founded the Springfield, Tennessee-based Stony Creek Colors in 2012, reestablishing plant-based dyes in the U.S. To ensure she had enough supply for her business, Sarah had to work directly with farmers. She began with tobacco growers who were looking for an alternative crop.
The farmers soon realized making the switch was an economically viable option. Tobacco is a notoriously labor-intensive plant. While the plant itself might sell for a better price, during it’s growing season, tobacco is touched, on-average, 16 times by a human. Indigo-producing plants don’t require nearly as much labor, which means a higher margin. Plus, with a direct buyer in Stony Creek Colors, the prices of indigo plants aren’t tied to the same macro-economic trends that affect commodity crops like tobacco and soy.
From two acres of indigo in 2014 to over 150 last year, Stony Creek Colors doesn’t plan on slowing growth anytime soon. This year, they’re working with 8 farmers and hope to not only add more acreage with the current growers, but also to add more growers. With many local farmers interested in growing indigo, Sarah and her team have been able to push their growers toward more conservation and stewardship practices. (Something we love.)
Next up for Stony Creek are additional natural dyes, from both agricultural crops and waste streams. They can even make dyes from sawmill waste and walnut shells!
Natural vs. Synthetic Indigo
With a mindful, innovative approach, Stony Creek Colors developed the process and chemistry to create a bio-based indigo that can be seamlessly integrated into current fiber mill processes. Essentially, natural indigo has the same basic chemistry as synthetic indigo, which means mills don’t need to purchase any new equipment.
Support Stony Creek Colors
At Wrangler, we're excited to continue our collaboration with Stony Creek Colors and Cone Mills. We've used her dyes since last fall in our 27406 collection and can't wait to show you the new ways we’re incorporating natural indigo this summer.