Life can feel chaotic sometimes. Even if you try to comb through the mess and clear up the obstacles, the residues of life’s woes just accrue naturally. With time, these marks of our past may be buried away, or even smoothed out when being over-exposed.
Grace and Ho have spent six years running their online shop that sold clothes and vintage pieces they bought from abroad. “The first few years were pretty smooth. We just went with the flow and learned along the way. We studied about clothes, presentation, communication, and we studied about how to learn effectively too. We reached a bottleneck soon after the honeymoon period was over, as our self-identity began to take shape,” the two realized that ready-made clothes were not sufficient for their own self-expression. There were plenty more beautiful things out there that could only be achieved by producing something from scratch. “So we began to learn to make clothes. The more we made, the more we became certain of our direction.”
The seed of their creativity sprouted and has fast grown into a small but strong tree that guides them to the right path. The two started to make casual clothes that never go out of style. Using quality cotton and linen fabric, the duo collaborates with dedicated local seamstresses to produce apparel samples that can fully illustrate their ideas in mind. Grace and Ho both believe everyday items should have a simple design, and simple items need to be made with a dedicated mind.
After starting this project for a year, the duo had their first attempt with natural dye using avocado, which they eat almost every day. The skin and core of an avocado fruit are very rich in carotene, which provides a natural pigment that can be used as a light pink color dye after being treated. The pink color varies in shades. It is difficult to define the pinkness, but all its shades are so beautiful, tender, and indulging to look at.
“We essentially found every task interesting. Learning is in itself an interesting thing to do, we thus felt particularly blessed when learning something that we are interested in. The more we learn, the more we become aware of how much we don’t know. Then, in turn, we just continue to learn more and more.” Both of them were students of the arts stream back in high school. It was to both of their surprises that they started reading about chemistry to research on natural dye. They even reached out to friends for the guidance of chemistry to make sure they were doing their online learning the right way. “After reading, we would pick up some flowers and try putting our learnings into practice. The different experiment results have been giving us different types of satisfaction.” They recently picked up a lot of kapok flowers near the riverside and used them in several rounds of experiments until they acquired a light and gentle purple dye. The flowers were orangey red in color when they fell off the trees in March, but it could magically become a purple dye after being treated. This is truly a seasonal special that can only be made in early spring.
“There is a saying that 染, the Chinese character of ‘dye’ is itself a graphical depiction of the process of dyeing. First, you boil wood in water to extract pigment and repeat the process nine times before the pigment can be used as a dye to be applied to fabrics. ‘Nine times’ is not an actual number, this is just to illustrate the idea of repeating for many times.”
I used to take extra good care of my clothes to prevent them from getting worn and torn, but natural fabrics are similar to Japanese ceramics; the traces of being used would only add character to its style. The form and color of the natural fabric can get more distinctive after being washed and folded. This makes me always look forward to seeing how it would evolve into a unique personality. This is precisely the gift of nature, which goes beyond the binary of good and bad. All that matters is the change that can remind you of a certain memory.
“We used to learn how to make clothes, now we are learning why we have to make clothes this way.” To make apparel that is pretty and durable, crafting details are essential. This piece of clothing needs to be charming when you look at it very closely. “There is a lot to explore behind each piece of nice clothing. There are many beautiful stories that we can tell with clothes. Farming of cotton, weaving yarn into fabric, dyeing the fabric into different colors, sewing fabrics into clothes… all of these processes need to take the environment into consideration. We also need to consider if there is any kind of labor exploitation involved. After delving into all these topics, we were even more determined to make truly good clothes.”