Weather Permittingby Niamh McCooey
Light can be textiles’ worst enemy. When coloured with natural dyes; one afternoon spent on a sunny beach or left under the glare of a wide windowpane, and your favourite scarf or treasured jacket can fade quickly. But, is it worth it? Given the great impact that chemical dyes can have on our environment, more designers than ever before are opting to use natural dyes in the making of their products – and Jurgen Lehl, the late German-born, Japan-based designer behind textile brand Babaghuri, championed them in his timeless, elegant designs.
Almost ten years ago Lehl established his brand Babaghuri, which still focuses on producing organic, sustainable homeware and clothing today. Lehl believed so much in the power of environmentally-friendly design that his ethos was never just limited to textiles – he even ran his own farm on the Okinawan island of Ishigakijima, where he often made some of his clothes in the company of his growing vegetables.
From the outset, everything had to be made with renewable materials. Using hand-spun yarns and working quite often on handlooms, all Babaghuri textiles are designed to be ‘of the environment’, and not just out of it. The climate in Okinawa was inescapably temperamental when Lehl worked there. ‘In Tokyo, everything is decided by people,’ he explained before his death. ‘The natural cycle is more palpable in Okinawa, where everything is decided by nature.’
Unlike so many of the high street brands whose clothes you will so often see filling shop windows, Babaghuri textiles don't try to resist the power of nature, be it light, colour or material itself. Instead, Babaghuri collaborates with it, producing beautiful and simple designs that bring a piece of the natural world into homes all over the world – from Germany to Japan and back again. If a lingering ray of sunshine fades the colour of a naturally-dyed garment, for Babaghuri, it's just another defining character in the ever evolving life of cloth.
To view Babaghuri products available through the Selvedge shop, click here.
To explore the relationship between textiles and light a little more, pick up the current Luna issue of Selvedge to read about the luminescent work of Astrid Krogh, or order your copy here.