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Beauty School

Explore the wonderful world of natural dyes, a marriage of sustainability and aesthetics



Jacob Gortmaker


I began my Capstone project with one question: What are the environmental effects of chemical dyes? Textile production is responsible for about 20% of global clean water pollution from dyeing and finishing products. I quickly realized that chemical dyes are extremely destructive, an immediate issue that needed solution-building. I spent the semester prototyping and experimenting with alternative dye solutions. After being introduced to natural dyes, I completed a range of communal projects that addressed three key stakeholders: fashion enthusiasts, brand owners, and Parsons students.


See the project video: 


One challenge that I faced was that I wasn’t designing an imaginative product. I was creating actual processes for dyeing clothes. While there’s a wealth of information online about the positive effects of natural dyes on the environment, there’s a lot less information about how to create and apply them. I probably spent countless hours researching before I ever dyed my first textile. Since then, it’s taken hundreds of dye sessions to learn the intricacies of natural dyes. Which brings me to my next challenge: communicating the steps to other people. The beautiful thing about working with natural dyes is that each of these challenges furthered the cause and even if something failed, it always yielded beautiful results.


I reached the conclusion that not only are natural dyes popular among young fashion enjoyers, they’re extremely viable. There were many deliverables. I hosted a natural dye event in December that yielded 6 different dyed garments. Through a series of consulting meetings and dye sessions with New York-based brand Rollercoaster, a run of 5 shirts dyed with tree bark were created and sold for charity. I worked with the next generation of fashion designers to dye their thesis projects. This sewed seeds that they’ll carry into their own careers, whether working on independent projects or for large fashion houses. The final deliverable is a business proposal for local dye workshops with the brand ADVISRY. You can find Beauty School on Instagram: Beauty School

MEET THE Designers:
Jacob Gortmaker

Jacob Gortmaker

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