Nienke Hoogvliet and Anne Boermans have been researching how to create sustainable and eco-friendly textile dyes and during the past eight years they have tried different types of seaweed. The seaweed dyes act as an alternative to the traditional dyes which are chemical-heavy and artificial. They hope that their company Zeefier can scale up the production of seaweed dyes and make the fashion industry a bit more sustainable.
“The dyeing of textiles is a really environmentally polluting process,” Hoogvliet told Dezeen, “so it has always been my dream to upscale this technology and bring it to the market.”
The Dutch Design Week was held last month in Eindhoven and during the week Zeefier presented the range of colors they’ve created using seaweed dye.
“The color palette is not what you expect,” Hoogvliet said. “It’s not just boring greens and browns; there’s so much more, including purples, pinks, and oranges.”
Zeefier’s dyes are made from seaweed waste streams, which is the recycled seaweed leftover from the food or cosmetic industry. Using seaweed as an alternative has gotten a lot of attention as of late because, among other things, it produces oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide while growing. Also it doesn’t acquire agricultural land, freshwater or chemicals to grow.
Some of the challenges the team faces are that the natural color subtly changes over time and that it can only be used on natural fabric (such as wool and cotton). But since artificial fabrics, such as polyester, releases microplastic in the washing machine and while wearing it, the fashion industry should be leaning more towards using natural fabrics only. If so, the seaweed dye is perfect. Hoogvliet believes there is a market for natural dyes especially as more brands look for ways to cut their environmental impact.
“The interest is really big,” she said. “Everybody realizes now that they have to change and regulations are changing too.”
The company has yet to release any of their dyes, but the duo hopes to one day work with high-end fashion labels. Their main goal however, is to begin supplying high-street fashion brands with their seaweed dyes.
"We are now at the lab phase, but we hope to be producing batches for haute couture by the summer," said Hoogvliet. "In five years, we want to have our own factory up and running."