Indigo Hand Dye in Pakistan: Artistic Fabric Mills

As you know, last week we were in Amsterdam at the Kingpins trade show and whist there, we learned about a fascinating indigo dye story that captured our attention.

There is a magic in the act of putting cloth in hand and hand in indigo that inspires those who work with denim, but we hear time and again about the difficulties and complications surrounding piece-dyed indigo. This is different from the usual denim manufacturing procedure of dyeing yarns before weaving them into fabric. The result is a look that is different from all the denim currently available and is a direct nod to the culture of hand dyeing indigo fabrics that is still in existence today.

So when Artistic Fabric Mills (AFM) introduced their Ajrak Technology indigo piece dyed denim fabrics to us, we were pretty excited. They have been exploring the lost indigo history of the Indus Valley which is an arcane topic even to archeologists digging and studying the excavation sites of the Indus Valley Civilization in what is modern day Sindh, Pakistan.

Drawing from this 4,000 years of indigo dyeing heritage, AFM has developed a new technique for dyeing denim that it hopes will generate further research on this history. AFM calls it Ajrak Technology, named after the indigo dyed and woodblock printed fabric popularized circa 17th century in the Indus Valley.

We also get a gist of the lessons they have learned from spending time with the remaining indigo hand dyers whose families have mastered the craft and are working hard to keep the trade sustainable.

“Slow and many times,” says AFM Director Hasan Javed, “ was something these indigo masters taught us was crucial to dyeing indigo. We took this lesson back to our denim range and ran our Ajrak Technology successfully by cutting the speed at which we ran our fabrics. The shade on our fabric instantly became more vibrant and nuanced. There are many such stories to be told here and that is one of the reasons why we decided to look into our own indigo heritage for inspiration.”

If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona next week for Denim PV, go check out their stand and see their garments for yourself. The team are super passionate about it and we’re sure they could tell you more.


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