Organically-produced clothes are on the rise, but they are often dyed using chemical substances. Caroline Fourré wants to change that.

She tested various methods for two months. Carrots didn’t work. Artichokes and beets were also useless. At home in her kitchen, Caroline Fourré would cook a vegetable and then dip swatches of fabric in the cooking water. She was positively surprised by avocado shells, which dyed the fabric salmon pink. Pomegranate resulted in yellow, and red cabbage in blue. She wrote her bachelor thesis at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) on dyeing textiles with food waste – and received top marks. It all started with saffron:

Fourré grew up in Yverdon-les-Bains and studied in Biel, where she became fascinated by the city’s bilingualism. She decided to study in German-speaking Switzerland and enrolled in the Style and Design program at the ZHDK. During her research on dyeing textiles, she began to search for waste in Zurich in large quantities, since natural dyes from plants such as flowers and roots already exist, though only in small batches. Fourré wanted to find out whether natural dye production is possible on an industrial scale to dye textiles in large quantities. So where did all the food waste come from?

But the work’s not over yet. Avocado shells that create this pretty pink must be boiled within 48 hours and, to her disappointment, Fourré found that once the shells are frozen, they no longer produce the dye. Furthermore, the dye liquid doesn’t keep for more than a week before it starts to produce a strong smell. So why go through all this effort? Are chemicals really that bad?

But there are also less harmful dyes and protective clothing that should limit the danger.

Is there even a demand for clothes dyed in chicory green and onion gold? Fourré put this question to the crowdfunding community. For the initial stage, she produced a collection of silk squares in three colors that men can use as a handkerchief and women as a scarf. It was a market research exercise, she says, to see if this product would ever find traction.

If successful, the next stage will be to step up the research. The aim would be to create dyes that can be preserved in either powder or liquid form. Fourré has already applied for a research grant at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

Why FREITAG is supporting this project

Waste for one person is an inspiration for others. We like the unconventional use of resources. The same line of thought that led to truck tarps as a potential material for bags inspired the use of food waste as a fabric dye. With her ‘Local Colours’ project, Caroline Fourré is on an uncompromising search for a completely natural answer to questions posed by the dye industry – an industry that normally inflicts a large chemical footprint. Good luck with the crowdfunding!