Designer's Diary

Colour, process and provenance are central to the young New York based clothing brand Supernaturae. Started by the designer Benedicte Lux - who has been known in the past to use avocado pips for natural dyes - Supernaturae uses soft, warm natural dyes and processes along with the best quality manufacturing and materials available. Here she talks us through the thoughts behind her latest collection.

I am extremely rigorous about my materiality; for me, it’s the starting point of any work that I do. Making clothing is extremely laborious and labour intensive, and as such I want to work with only the best materials. I also love history and world textiles, and I had a hard time whilst living in New York (where this collection was made) as it was hard to find textiles with a story, from an ethical and historical standpoint.

I had worked with hand-woven Indian fabrics before when I was apprenticing in London. Through them (a now defunct tailoring company called De Rien), I was very fortunate to be connected to a very special person whose entire village in Bihar (north India) still weaves on old looms. I travelled to India to source textiles for this collection, and came into a treasure land of hand-woven beauties with a special provenance. From there, it was just touching, seeing and deciding!  

The special thing about these fabrics is that not only is everything hand-woven, but the silk in this collection is what they call ‘eri silk’, which is a truly ahimsa silk – meaning non-violence. It’s a peace silk, as no silk worms are killed to make the silk. It’s a very special material, very sheer, strong and feels almost like paper to the touch with a wonderful dull kind of shine to it that is not too precious like some silks.

The story for this collection came out of a very touching documentary I watched on the Buena Vista Social Club. I have never been to Cuba but I love the music, the architecture, and the place evokes feelings and dreams in my mind. I worked with the story of the Omara Portuondo, the lead singer, and the dreams and aspirations that we hold inside ourselves; longings tinged by sadness and fuelled by passion.

I dyed using cochineal for that rich red colour, obviously representing passion and indigo, for the blue, representing sadness and longing. Cochineal and Indigo are the first and the original dyes. Cochineal is cultivated mainly in Mexico and was a highly prized colour when the Americas were discovered. Indigo is found all over the world, and every culture has a different way of creating colour from it, which is incredible. It is found on dyed fabrics from the earliest fabrics found, over 2,000 years ago. So it’s a lot of history, and meant to evoke feelings of romanticism, dreams and aspirations.

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    Yes- the cochineal beetles are a natural pest and act as a source of income for small villages in Mexico & are much less harmful than other methods of dye. First and foremost, we work as a social enterprise to support artisanal production methods.

  • Fiona on

    After your comment that the silk is extracted non violently from silk worms, I wonder if you are aware that 70,000 cochineal beetles need to be killed by heating – oven or hot water – in order to produce 454g (1 lb) of the dye.

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