Aurélia Wolff, vegetable dye expert

At the head of WHOLE (wastefree, hand-dyed, organic, local, eco-friendly), a manufacturer of natural dyes made from plants, Aurélia Wolff participated in the 34th International Festival of Fashion, Photography and Fashion Accessories in Hyères this year. Her goal? Share her know-how during hands-on workshops in which visitors and interested guests could dye American Vintage T-shirts and tank tops. She took time out to talk to us about her trade.

In 2009, Aurélia Wolff launched her women’s ready-to-wear brand featuring clothing made in France and crafted from recuperated fabrics. Two shops and several international distributors later, the entrepreneur goes one step further in eco-responsibility and turns to natural dyes, made possible with the conversion of plant waste. Learning the tools of the trade from Michel Garcia, a pro on the subject, her first collection was launched in 2014. Cushions, dish towels, scarves, blankets… Aurélia Wolff interprets the world of dyes with an understated and “modern” take, as she likes to point out. “Just because we’re making dyes doesn’t mean everything has to look like tie-and-dye from the 70s,” she emphasizes. The proof with WHOLE, her company, which she tells us about today.

What is vegetable dye?

I’ve always been drawn to craftsmanship and nature. With my first brand, I was already focused on sustainability, but I wanted to go farther. I had a book on natural dyes at home and I ended up doing some research. I realized that it’s possible to dye fabrics with already used flowers and vegetables, taking sustainability to a new level. For example, I get my avocado peels from a Mexican restaurant owner who makes his guacamole with organic avocados.

What plant for what color?

The combinations are endless and the result is different, depending on the fabric used. Personally, I use a pink made from avocado peel, which has the advantage of being a direct, very strong and easy dye. Madder offers another type of pink that is much more effective on wool. Rhubarb, ochre. Indigo, blue…

Since its creation, American Vintage has developed exclusive colors. How did you collaborate with the brand in Hyères?

American Vintage and I share a very sensitive approach to color. This made perfect sense with my way of working. They also pay close attention to the fibers that they use. Their cottons are really beautiful. To obtain the blue and pink present at our shared workshop, I created an indigo from various plants (in this case, woad). It has the specific characteristic of being insoluble in water and can only yield color when used cold. Unlike avocado, we cannot boil its leaves, but we can reduce them. It is the oxidation of the fabric after it has been dipped in the vat and then exposed to the open air that generates the blue color. As for the pink, I chose that of avocado, which is almost a nod to that of the Villa Noailles. The pigments are obtained by infusion, by boiling the peel, filtering it and dipping the fabric in the liquid.

Any new projects?

I want to go even further in my search for naturalness. I aim to develop silk-screening using vegetable ink and I responded to the call for projects launched by the city of Paris: the Parisculteurs. My idea is to set up a garden of tinctorial plants in the 13th arrondissement. I’ll receive an answer in July. Stay tuned!

AMV Journal is a space dedicated to encounters, discovery and travel. Every week, explore the musts, portraits and inspirations of American Vintage and its creation studio.