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A how-to guide to tie-dye, luxury fashion’s favourite DIY technique

Amateur hobbyists picked up their old T-shirts, rubber-bands and favourite dye colours and appear to not have put it down since last summer. This season, fashion brands seem to agree on one thing: tie-dye is still very much in.

The Spring/Summer 2021 collections were full of it. Models walked down the Dior runway in breezy kaftans and lounge pants with multi-coloured stripes. Alexander McQueen presented men’s jackets and coats that were dipped in a barrel of raspberry dye. Loewe designer Jonathan Anderson made use of the Japanese shibori technique to turn tunics into artful canvases. And you could find even more psychedelic patterns at Celine, Ermenegilda Zegna and Gabriela Hearst.

It’s not just that tie-dye is pretty. The appeal lies in the artisanal techniques used to bring these vibrant prints to life. In a time when human touch is scarce, more designers are making a statement of craftsmanship through their clothes. It’s the same thing the rest of us are doing at home, with one DIY project or another. On TikTok, stylish youths go viral by sprucing up their old clothes, employing techniques like crochet, quilting and, of course, tie-dye.

What better time to jump on the bandwagon than in mindful March? It doesn’t take much to tie-dye, either. All you need are garments (start off with plain white T-shirts or socks), fabric dyes (you can even experiment with natural alternatives), squeeze bottles, Ziplock bags and rubber bands. Don’t forget your gloves — you don’t want to get your hands dirty. Read on for the rest of our beginner’s guide to tie-dye.

Soak your garment

If you’re working with cotton, linen, rayon or other natural fibres, you’ll have to soak your garment in a dye fixer first. To create the solution, mix a cup of soda ash with roughly four litres of warm water in a plastic bucket or container. Soak your garment in the solution for at least 15 minutes.

Do the twist

Remove your clothes from the solution and wring it out. Lay out the damp garment on a flat, covered surface that you don’t mind getting wet. To create a spiral tie-dye, pinch the centre of the garment and twist it tightly into a swirl. Use your rubber bands to hold the spiralled garment in shape.

Apply the dye

There are no hard rules for this one: simply pick a dye and get creative. With a squeeze bottle, you can streak your dye with precision. For a lighter hue, dilute your dye with water. And if you really want an intense colour, let your dye sit longer. If you’re using two or more colours, make sure that they produce a desirable colour when mixed (think pink and blue, which will give you purple).

Let the dye develop

With the rubber bands in place, store your garment in a Ziplock or a plastic bag. Leave it to let the dye develop for up to 8 hours. Once done, you can cut off the rubber bands. Rinse your garment thoroughly with cold water to remove the soda ash solution. Do it again with hot water to get rid of excess dye. Once your garment leaves only clear water when washed, you can hang the finished product out to dry.

For tie-dye workshops in Hong Kong, look no further than Lantau Blue — which teaches the art of shibori — and PMQ’s Dyelicious, which ups the sustainability ante with dyes made from food waste like purple cabbage, tea, coffee and sakura wood.

(Header photo courtesy of Dior)

A how-to guide to tie-dye, luxury fashion’s favourite DIY technique

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