In an industry swept up in synthetic dyes, Sarah Bellos is proving that it is possible to build a scalable (and local) source for natural indigo. As founder and CEO of Stony Creek Colors, the Springfield, Tenn.-based plant-based dye company, Bellos works with key parts of the supply chain to advance natural dyes and help restore denim’s rich indigo heritage. The dyes are a win-win for the industry, improving “profitability and ecosystem health for farmers, while empowering designers, brands, and mills with greater transparency and traceability,” the company states.
In 2021, Stony Creek Colors joined Fashion for Good’s Accelerator Program designed to facilitate financing, provide impact assessments and introduce startups to technical mentors, potential collaborators and other industry leaders. The company also celebrated the first closing of its Series B financing round, totaling over $9 million. With this financing, Stony Creek Colors secured the capital needed to scale operations, allowing a geographic expansion of its proprietary indigo-producing crops and processing capabilities to bring its dye to more denim mills.
What is the biggest misconception that consumers have about sustainable denim?
We know there is a huge desire from consumers to move toward plant-based indigo to replace the petroleum-based indigo used today, but a misconception has been that plant-based solutions couldn’t meet industrial demands. It’s been incredible to witness the evolution of Stony Creek Colors’ plant-based indigo in just under a decade of investment in the crop and chemical processes. We now truly have a scalable supply chain that can color our industry with a regenerative, climate positive indigo solution.
Still, there are many indigo sellers that claim to be natural but are actually adulterated with synthetic indigo made from harmful chemicals like cyanide and aniline. I would encourage consumers to research their suppliers and look for reliable third-party certifications like USDA BioPreferred to help them navigate denim that is dyed with true plant-based color.
What can the denim industry do to ensure a positive post-pandemic rebound?
I think the industry can lean into its origins and consider not just the style but also the utility of a pair of jeans. With working from home becoming the norm for many industries globally for example, how can brands [offer consumers functionality and versatility for their wardrobes]?
Skinny jeans: Over or a new staple?
A classic silhouette and closet staple.
How can denim retail improve?
I’m really inspired to see the secondhand channel enter the denim industry. I think appealing to consumers’ appreciation of vintage styles, the creation of unique pieces, and affordable pricing can be supported through resell efforts.
How many pairs of jeans do you own?
Which jeans do you wear the most, and why?
My favorite pair of Lucky Brand jeans that are dyed with Stony Creek Colors natural indigo. They are versatile and the color is wearing down beautifully.