I first met Jesus Ciriza and his business partner Loes Overbeek in October 1999. They had already perfected commercial natural dyeing but they where just starting to develop their first product, a classic buttoned down men’s shirt. Their entire process was certified by SCAL, a Dutch certification that was eventually bought by Control Union. Their certification included everything from dyes, spinning, handloom weaving, and their organic cotton was beyond Fair Trade standards. Alas, they were struggling to survive due to the isolation of Auroville, India, poor market conditions and specially because back then natural dyes and organic cotton wasn’t a thing… So they invited me to collaborate with them and I decided to design a collection dedicated to reflect a zen lifestyle.
We presented the collection at Biofach, Germany in 2001, the first trade show dedicated to organic products, but the market wasn’t ready yet… It was an uphill battle, enough to make anyone go bankrupt!
I kept all my samples, swatches, natural dyeing ingredients and once I started teaching Ethical Fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NY (2010), it became my mission to inspire students to work with natural dyes and endangered cultures… Indigo was in my soul and it became a powerful incentive to inspire my students.
Eventually, Jesus and Loes parted ways but thanks to Jesus tenacity and the internet, TCoN now collaborates with brands such as Levis, Industry of All Nations, Lacoste, Benetton, Story from Japan, etc.
Here are some fond images that bring back those memories 🙂
PS, no the digital cameras back then…
If you are hoping to develop handmade products with artisans and their ancestral techniques, contact me to inquire about my consultancy packages. I also teach ethical fashion courses and give lectures.
Jesus and Loes
Me, while reviewing developments
Indigo + Japanese techniques: Shibori, Sashiko and natural bamboo closures.
The dyeing unit
All natural, almost like Robinson Crusoe
Tailoring unit upstairs
Loes and the samplemaker
Pure organic cotton drying
Indigo ferra plant and indigo yarn
Indigo is a live fermentation process
Dying and the oxidation process
Shibori samples for the bedding collection
Handloomed plain kimono robe and slippers
Handloomed waffle kimono robe
Developing our knit samples at a Tirupur factory
Organic cotton yoga collection
Me, while doing the slipper and sandal development
Organic cotton Spa slippers
My footwear design
TCoN founders, Jesus Ciriza and Loes Overbeek, Auroville, India, 1999
A young version of myself with a Kutchi Rabari tribe in the Bhuj desert.