Why We Love Reactive Dyes

bowls of reactive dyes

Without even realizing it, you’ve probably encountered reactive dyes many times. Though many American and fast fashion retailers don’t use reactive dyes, you’ve likely seen them on tie-dye shirts or sustainable clothing. If you’ve ever noticed how tie-dye shirts retain their vibrance, that’s the power of reactive dyes at work. While other dyes fade quickly, reactive dyes offer a superior alternative, creating a permanent bond with the fabric for long-lasting, wash-safe color.

What are Reactive Dyes?

Reactive dyes, also known as fiber-reactive dyes, are a class of colorants that chemically react with the fabric. They create a covalent bond, essentially making the dye a permanent part of the material. Unlike dyes that simply adhere to the surface, reactive dyes penetrate the fibers, resulting in superior colorfastness. This creates garments that resist fading, even after being washed and exposed to sunlight.

As an ethical, sustainable brand, Passion Lilie only uses reactive dyes in our printing paste. These eco-friendly dyes, combined with natural binders like gum Arabic, create the vibrant, long-lasting colors you see on Passion Lilie clothes.

A person in the process of dyeing fabric

The Art of Reactive Dyeing

Passion Lilie’s commitment to high-quality, beautiful clothing extends beyond the dyes themselves. We combine heritage techniques with modern advancements to produce the garments you know and love. Here’s a glimpse into the magic behind our reactive dyeing process: 

  1. Setting the Stage: The process begins with our artisans dyeing the fabric to its base color. This creates a foundation upon which subsequent colors will be layered.
  2. Crafting the Binder: Sustainability is at the heart of our process. We use gum Arabic resin crystals, a natural product, as a binder for the reactive dyes. While artisans dye the base layer of the fabric, these crystals are fermented using a traditional recipe, soaking in water for several days to achieve the perfect consistency.
  3. Hand Block Printing: Our artisans create wooden blocks carved with intricate designs like the flora and fauna you see on Passion Lilie clothing. They dip the blocks in reactive dye mixed with the gum Arabic binder and press them into the fabric, creating beautiful, hand-printed patterns.
  4. Steam Power: After the fabric is printed, each piece is meticulously wrapped in recycled newspaper. This creates a barrier and allows the fabric to undergo a gentle steaming process for an entire day. This critical step sets the reactive dyes, forming a permanent bond with the fabric’s molecules.
  5. Washing and curing: After a day of steaming, the fabric is thoroughly washed to remove excess dye and binder. Then it’s cured in the warm sun, allowing the colors to develop to their full vibrancy.
  6. Back to the beginning: If the design needs additional colors, our artisans repeat the entire process – printing, steaming, washing, and curing – for each new color.
  7. The finishing touch: Once all colors are printed, the artisans meticulously remove any remaining gum Arabic residue. This ensures a soft, comfortable feel and reveals the stunning, hand-printed artwork on the fabric.

This detailed, multi-step process may seem time-consuming, but it’s the cornerstone of our commitment to quality and sustainability. Slow fashion is better for the environment, our artisans, and you – the folks who love Passion Lilie clothes. For more information about the methods of dyeing we use, read about our natural dyes (also known as plant-based or vegetable-based dyes), eco dyes, and reactive dyes.

Person in the process of dyeing clothes

The Advantages of Reactive Dyes

Here’s why we (and our customers!) prefer reactive dyes: 

  • Unmatched vibrancy: Reactive dyes produce superior color depth and richness compared to other dyes. They remain true and vibrant, wash after wash.
  • Colorfastness you can trust: Because reactive dyes become a part of the fabric, they don’t bleed into other pieces of laundry and they maintain their color for years to come.
  • One-of-a-kind pieces: There’s something special about handmade clothing and owning something truly one of a kind. With reactive dyeing, each piece of fabric is truly unlike any other.
  • Sustainability matters: The process of reactive printing is low waste and sustainable. We use recycled newspaper for wrapping, and our gum Arabic crystals are sourced from a sustainable grower.

When you choose to buy garments made with reactive dyes, you’re not just investing in vibrant color and lasting quality; you’re supporting a brand that prioritizes ethical production and environmental responsibility.

At Passion Lilie, we believe we have the power to change the fashion industry. Our clothing is made to be treasured for years to come. Explore some of our favorite pieces and discover the difference that truly sustainable clothing can make.

Midnight Blooms Floral Wrap Dress

This floral print dress is sure to be your new favorite dress for all seasons. With its unique black floral block print, you can dress it up for work or dinner parties or toss it on with sneakers shoes when running errands. 

Midnight Blooms Dress

Paisley & Stripe Scarf

A pretty scarf can elevate any outfit. Pair this pretty one with a solid top or dress for instant style. It’s hand-block printed with reactive dyes on 100% cotton fabric.

Paisley and Stripe Scarf

Blue Rain Organic Dress

This blue organic dress is the pinnacle of comfort and style. Created with soft and breathable materials, this dress offers effortless, everyday fashion. The versatile design makes it the perfect choice for any casual occasion, whether you're running errands or meeting friends for a relaxed brunch. It’s made from 100% organic jersey cotton and organic reactive dyes.

Blue Rain Organic Dress

You can also shop more of Passion Lilie’s ethical apparel, read about our mission, or discover more fashion tips and trends on our blog.

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