Indigo has become a buzzword in the denim community, but few people realize that bio-based dyes were replaced almost entirely by synthetic dyes a century ago. Sarah Bellos is setting out to change that with her company Stony Creek Colors.
Bellos, a graduate of the agricultural school at Cornell, founded Stony Creek Colors with the idea to help farmers on small and mid-sized farms develop a crop for the premium market. Having previously operated a plant-based dye house that served independent fashion designers, Bellos understood that there was a market for natural indigo, however, it simply wasn’t being produced at a commercial scale in the United States.
The majority of denim is dyed with synthetic indigo, and 91 percent of that production is done in China. The production causes a lot of pollution, as it is made with hazardous chemicals, including formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide. The industry produces 45,000 railroad cars worth of these chemicals every year.
Stony Creek Colors is working to rebuild the natural indigo supply chain, from the seeds through the processing of the powder. The company, based in Tennessee, works extremely locally, collaborating with farmers in the Southeastern United States to grow the indigo plants.
The company’s first business is a collaboration with Cone Denim Mills, which launched its Natural Indigo Selvedge collection in 2015. Cone has a supply agreement with Stony Creek Colors for its entire crop of indigo for the next several years.