To make informed choices about applying colors to objects and spaces it is important to understand their impact. Colors have the power to influence the way we experience the things we use, the clothes we wear and the rooms we inhabit. Understanding the impact of colors is an asset in any design process.
In the color lab we focus on the environmental impact of colors. On an industrial scale colors are developed to stay the same under different light, temperature and weather conditions. To create a stable color complex chemical processes have to be applied. Unfortunately these chemical processes also causes a lot of pollution. Especially in the textile sector chemical coloring processes can have a negative impact on our global environment. Chemical dyes are released into natural water streams polluting the local ecosystem. Consumers are also increasingly exposed to chemicals like formaldehyde used to fixate colors on the clothes without fully understanding their impact on the human body. As an alternative to chemical coloring processes the colour lab researches the potential of a biological coloring process.
Historically color dyes were made from locally sourced natural materials. In the color lab we apply this tradition to the principles of Circle Sector by sourcing natural materials to make color dyes. During a site visit of the test centre for fruit production PCfruit we learned that each year the fruit region Haspengouw in Belgium produces over 250 tons of agricultural waste that is labeled unfit for human consumption. While fruit can generate a diverse palette of natural dyes. Designer Anke Van Asbroeck created a color system called Re.Color based on vegetables and fruit waste. The Re.Color system is applied by designer Karel Op ‘t Eynde to create a transparent T-shirt production line based only on natural resources. Designer Henri Vanhaerents developed an experimental color dying technique based on natural acids to create patterns.
These design experiments highlight the potential of a biological coloring process based on agricultural waste. But these experiments also emphasise a range of challenges that have to be overcome before bio-based coloring can be applied on an industrial scale. The biggest challenge is the unstable condition of natural colors. Because the lack of chemical coatings natural colors degrade over time when they are washed and used. From an industrial perspective this can be seen as a major disadvantage. But can the natural degradation of color also be seen a quality? Is it necessary that colors maintain their intensity during their life cycle? These questions are the subject of future design research in the Color Lab. Ideas to collaborate on this subject are welcome.