The Art of Vegan Dyeing – Xiang Yun Sha

Balancing new with old, modern style with heritage designs, new garments with ancient techniques, using resources in a sustainable way. This is what Silkinc stand for and we show our purpose through our fabric. This goes right from our mulberry farming to the dyeing process.

This article delves into a specific type of dye we have used in some Gentlewoman collection pieces – the Bias Cut Sleeveless Top and Bias Cut Long Skirt.

xiang yun sha

xiang yun sha

This beautiful rustic coppery color is derived from a type of Chinese wild yam called 'Shu Liang' or Dioscorea Cirrhosa. Outside of fabric, this vegetable is used for its medicinal properties and therefore adds antibacterial and antivirus properties to the silk, ideal for those with sensitive skin. It is also water resistant making it durable and easy to maintain, helping you with living a balanced lifestyle.

This form of dyeing dates to the fifth century when fishermen treated their fishing nets with yam juice to prevent them from rotting black over prolonged contact with the iron-rich river mud. And thus, wild yam and mud dyeing was founded. This special and sustainable dyeing process has been passed through generations over thousands of years from one small village in southern China, now known as Guangzhou.

xiang yun sha

This wild yam is grown for seven years before it is used for dyeing. The artisans who dye the silk work as a community over several months during May to October each year. They cannot complete this process when there is rain and in the alternative months, they produce rice.

xiang yun sha

After the wild yams have soaked through the fabric and baked in the sun, iron rich mud is swept over the silk. The iron in the mud naturally reacts with the tannins in the yam dye that allows the silk to develop its color – a leathery black on one side and rust on the other. The depth and darkness of the rust color is dependent on the number of times this process is repeated which can be up to 30 to 40 times.

This organic and purely natural process is the epitome of slow and sustainable fashion. A vegan dye that is providing economic empowerment in rural areas where farming is crucial. We are proud to make use of this ancient dyeing process in our collections, bringing history to our contemporary designs and showcasing China's intangible cultural heritage.

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