It's a hot spring morning on the Sunshine Coast. Heat haze on the road, the strong smell of the bush in the air... Lara is wearing one of her own designs, silk, dyed with Eucalyptus, Acacia and splattered with Oak Gall Ink, a favourite old dress that has been lovingly mended. Perfect for a day of experimental dyeing.
Eucalyptus sideroxylon, also known as "Mugga" is the species that Lara is experimenting with today. Lara's father gathered the bark in the dry country, and gave her a bag of native Australian botany, a welcome gift for an enthusiastic natural dyer.
Eucalyptus sideroxylon is one of the 700 species’ that form the Eucalyptus genus. It is native to the western slopes and plains from Northern Victoria, through New South Wales up to South East Queensland. It can be recognised by it's ironbark impregnated with "kino", the dark red sap produced by the tree is a reaction to mechanical damage. When dried, it turns into an amber like material. Kino has been used since the 19th century as a natural cotton dye in the West Indies.
Lara will be dyeing some old cotton sheets which she recently bought from a local op-shop for today’s study. She prefers up-cycling while experimenting, in case of unexpected results.
Within the studio, dyeing pots comprised of various metals are scattered around the place, only beaten in number by the amount of bags and tins full of dried leaves, flowers and bark which Lara and her family have collected over many bush adventures. The gentle breeze going through slowly sways the exotic palm leaves which cast their shadows throughout the studio.
Lara picks out a large stainless steel pot from her collection, fills it with fresh water and places inside several pieces of bark, as well as the sheets. It's only a matter of time until one notices the Mugga bark giving off a wonderful earthy colour and smell.
Several hours later, the concoction is ready. The bark has produced enough colour to evenly dye the sheets a light, rustic pink. The drying process is as natural as the dyeing process, using Mother Nature’s help, through the means of sun and wind. The natural colour blends in beautifully with the surrounding bush.
Assisting Lara with this study of the dyeing properties of Eucalyptus sideroxylon was a very interesting experience for several reasons. First of all, it makes one realise just how much time, work, experimenting and patience is put into each and every one of Lara Stone's garments.
It also makes one realise how little impact Lara’s process has on the environment, with no use of chemical dyes, and only the use of an electrical stove to heat up the dyeing concoction. Lara does occasionally use the natural heat of the sun for the dyeing process, but this takes days to get the required result, instead of a couple of hours on the stove.
This return to nature’s sources in fashion is beneficial firstly for the environment, the fashion industry being amongst the top five most polluting industries in the world ; for the producer, who is directly exposed to far less chemicals and toxins present in non-natural dyes ; and finally for the consumer, who can know the specific origin and properties of the garment and who is a contributing towards preserving the natural environment.
By Chloé Décobert