|Kathy Hattori at the April 11 CQA meeting|
Around 2000, Hattori was a hobby spinner, weaver and dyer with a tech job in Silicon Valley--"doing okay, not great"--when, in the space of a couple years, she lost her job in the internet bust, sold her house and ended her marriage. Building on her earlier experience with dyes, she started a small, online natural dyes company and was now enjoying what she was doing.
Then she was contacted by Target, a large retailer whose "concept team" wanted to see if natural dyes would be practical and economical for their apparel lines. Several dyed samples later it was clear that the company's clothing lines--comprising a number of synthetic blends rather than pure wool or silk--were not appropriate for natural dyes, nor would the increased costs of using natural vs synthetic dyes work with the retailer's price points.
Growing out of this experience, Hattori learned that "the textile industry is in trouble managing their resources." She pointed out that in the 1980s, 95% of the clothing sold in this country was U.S. made; today, that figure is only 2%. Unregulated dye manufacturing and dye houses abound in the developing world, and there is little regulation on dying commercial clothing. "And yet there are no waste-water treatment plants in the developing world," she noted, adding that "Some of the water in these countries is fatally polluted. In 2012, global dye-manufacturing was listed as one of the top 10 industrial polluters." Hattori noted that azo dyes have been banned in the U.S. and Europe, but they are regularly used in China and India. "There are more than 50,000 dye houses in China alone, and more than 40% of the surface water is polluted," she added.
|Hattori says the dye industry "would like you to see it like this (above) when it's really like the scene below." China alone has more than 50,000 unregulated dye houses.|
|In many parts of the developing world, waste-water from the unregulated dye industry ends up polluting surface waters.|
Hattori then spoke of a number of "change agents" who were working to reverse this trend. Greenpeace, for one, has done a great deal of work with their "Toxic Threads" initiative in pushing manufacturers to clean up their supply chain. H&M has introduced a line called "Conscious Collection," and she urged that it be supported. A movement called "Fibershed" was started by a woman in Northern California who set out to recreate her wardrobe from suppliers within 150 miles of her home; the Fibershed idea has now taken off around the country.
|The Greenpeace "Toxic Threads" initiative has been instrumental in helping many manufacturers clean up their supply chains.|
|A recycled T-shirt over-dyed for Seattle's "Green Eileen" store|
Though she was not "a fit" for Target, that experience encouraged Hattori to approach other apparel manufacturers, and she's now working with several to develop new clothing lines with more "earth-friendly" dyes and natural materials.
|Diagram of a traditional multi-step supply chain for a pair of men's trousers|
|Garments from Other Brother, Portland Or, a typical customer in Hattori's company's 4-step supply chain|
|Knit Tees from Cloth Foundry, San Francisco, a fabric supplier in Hattori's supply chain (natural-dye colors)|
|Hattori uses either large-capacity or specialty dye houses depending on the size of the order.|
One customer example is Other Brother of Portland, specializing in men's wear based on natural dyes, sustainable cotton and U.S. manufacture. An example of a fabric supplier is California Cloth Foundry of San Francisco, specialist in knits spun from U.S. sustainable cotton, and U. S. manufactured. Depending on the product quantities involved, large-capacity dye houses in North Carolina or Maine, or specialty dyers in New York, Los Angeles or Seattle, will be used. The dyes, of course, are all natural and non-toxic.
|Hattori holds a "Backyard Hoodie" designed by Cloth Foundry in all natural cotton and natural dyes.|
|A rich, black color on natural cotton, as in these pants, can take five different dyes.|
She mentioned several area operations involved in the natural/sustainable movement, including Tolt Yarn & Wool in Carnation, a local grower, and Jubilee Farms, also in Carnation, offering classes and gatherings of dyestuffs in July and August.
At the end of the presentation, attendees gathered around Hattori's samples of organic brown cotton and both yarns and clothing dyed with indigo and other natural dyes in glowing, earthy colors.
|Hattori holds a cotton boll with newly developed brown cotton fibers.|
|Natural dyes create rich colors in yarns.|
|Warm, earth tones in natural-dyed cotton Tees invite touch!|
|Dye from the indigo plant produces a wide range of blue colors in these natural cotton fabrics.|
Web contacts: www.botanicalcolors.com/, www.clothfoundry.com/.