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.


Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.

  • Dear Hassan
    I am glad that finally AFM took this Brave step to support the artisan.
    All the Best .

    Future of Natural Dyes in Pakistan !

    The King of Dyes Indigo.

    Indigo is an ingredient contained in several kinds of plants. It has the power to dye material in various shades of Blue. The name indigo is derived from the word INDIC, meaning of India, where it was an important agricultural product for centuries even as late as the year 1880, some 1400,000 acres of land in Indo-Pak was devoted to raising the indigo plant. Nowadays synthetic indigo supplanted natural indigo in widespread use.
    There are only a few dyers left who use just natural indigo and the old dyeing method. Many synthetic blue dyes in addition to indigo became available but only natural indigo allows the characteristics build up layers of “Blueness” and give blue denim its unique fading and abrasive qualities. The clothes dyed with natural indigo are suitable for every season and indigo dyed cloth is about 10 % stronger than undyed material.
    In 2008 Levi’s launch its limited edition of organic denim version complemented with a deep rich indigo dye reminiscent of LS & Co’s first ever jeans produced in 1873. The merits of synthetic indigo in cost and convenience can’t be denied but we have to insist on the superior beauty of the natural indigo which also help to protect the environment and makes indigo preference as it was the ancient mean of livelihood for the Indus civilization.

  • Ive always been a fan of Artistic Fabric Mills (AFM) and Hasan Javed – Not only one of the biggest, they have true Heritage in there roots. They are one of the mills like US DENIM which is blowing away the Stigma associated with Pakistan – What most naive Denim connoisseurs also don’t realise is, it was the Arabs who named cotton and it was the people of the Indus River Valley (Pakistan) who 1st spun it and woven into cloth. Cotton and Indigo both play a rich part of Indus River Valley – everyone should keep a close eye on Pakistani Denim.