Hoogvliet has been researching how to create a range of sustainable and eco-friendly dyes using different types of seaweed for the past eight years and hopes that Zeefier can scale up production of these seaweed dyes for commercial use, which would offer an alternative to chemical-heavy artificial colorants that are prevalent in the fashion industry.
“The dyeing of textiles is a really environmentally polluting process,” Hoogvliet told Dezeen, “so it has always been my dream to upscale this technology and bring it to the market.”
At this year’s Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Hoogvliet and Boermans displayed the range of different colors that they were able to create with seaweed dye.
“The color palette is not what you expect,” Hoogvliet said. “It’s not just boring greens and browns; there’s so much more, including purples, pinks, and oranges.”
There’s been a lot of buzz around seaweed as a sustainable material—it doesn’t take up agricultural land, need freshwater, or require chemicals to grow. On top of that, it produces oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide.
Zeefier’s dyes are even more sustainable because they’re produced from seaweed waste streams, which are the recycled seaweeds from the food or cosmetics industries.
The challenges that the duo faces are that the dyes can only be used with natural fabrics like cotton, silk, and wool, and that the color of natural dyes subtly changes over time.
Despite these hurdles, Hoogvliet says that she believes there is a market for natural dyes, especially as more and more consumers and companies look at strategies for reducing their environmental impact.
“The interest is really big,” she said. “Everybody realizes now that they have to change and regulations are changing too.”
While Zeefier has yet to release its range of dyes, it has launched its first product—a wool scarf hand-dyed with giant kelp seaweed, resulting in a soft yellow hue.
The design duo hopes that they can one day collaborate with high-end fashion labels, but their main goal is to begin supplying natural dye to high-street fashion brands.