Almost obliterated in the 19th century with the invention of synthetic dyes, today natural dyes derived from organic materials found in the environment (e.g. plants, minerals, insects, etc.) are undergoing a revival worldwide. Such revival is a response to the pollution, socio-economic violence and harmful practices of the mainstream textile industry and has led to both a rediscovery of the many historical, non-western and indigenous dyeing practices worldwide as well as innovations through scientific partnership (e.g. bio-dyes using bacterias).
Yet, in comparison with other regions in the world, Northeast America lags behind. Knowledge and cultivation of plants suitable for natural dyeing in Northeast America is still in its infancy. With regards to skills and knowledge, there is a glaring gap in educating future generations of fashion and textile professionals: there is no certification in natural dyes in any academic institutions in North America, let alone the Northeast. In terms of communities of professionals, natural dyeing is not simply about learning techniques in the narrow sense, it demands commitment and practice over many years: it is a long-term learning process that requires establishing a network and community of professional and dedicated natural dyers with local and global roots. These lead to the main challenge to be addressed for this conference: how to establish a vibrant natural dye sector in Northeast America to answer to the linked concerns with the protection of environments, health promotion, socio-economically just relations, cultural growth and creative expression?
The purpose of this Symposium Series is therefore three-fold: First, to further promote natural dyes as a crucial response to contemporary environmental concerns, health and socio-economic disparities, and the need for community building. Second, to foster new knowledge networks to support the development of the natural dye sector in Northeast America and third, to offer a space for the natural dye community to come together to explore and further develop best practices.