Photos by Luca Venter
The color of depth.
From deep sea trenches to the mystery of space, the natural world marks mystery with the deepest of blue. This rich hue, regarded as one of the seven colors of the rainbow (the “I” of the mnemonic Roy G. Biv), stretches its roots both literally and figuratively into the ancient past, which may have something to do with our fascination with this inkiest of blues.
Indigo, which is practically synonymous with the blue jean today, is in fact named after the dye derived from the plant Indigofera tinctoria and related species (the earliest recorded usage dating back to 4000 BC in Peru). Indigo was used for centuries in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Peru, and Iran before making its way to Europe in 1289, thanks to reports from Venetian merchant Marco Polo. Its useage expanded through Spain, France, and England rapidly, then to Japan during the Edo period.
Today in the United States, thanks to the work of Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss in patenting and manufacturing overalls and jeans with copper rivets for the working class through the 18th and 19th century, indigo dyed-garments are commonplace. And, perhaps in thanks to its use in such work-worthy items, it’s depth and brightness is as transient as it is everyday. There is something a bit romantic about indigo’s changing nature over time. From rural farmer to an inner-city creative, the the journey your favorite pair of blue jeans takes over its life tells a unique story.
That story begins with a rich dye. Many dyes used in the industry today are synthetic, but the best are still culled from the earth, rendering the truest and deepest midnight blues one often finds from the best denim mills in the world, resulting in the most beautiful indigo-dyed products. While we enjoy a used and abused piece of denim as much as the next guy, it seemed fitting to highlight indigo by choosing some items that demonstrate its beauty in its early form. So we choose a shirt from Blue Blue Japan that uses natural fibers, is cut from a unique fabric, and arrives at its hue through wash processes that pay homage to traditional Japanese craftsmanship and technique. The hat, by Études Studio, and trousers, by APC, are equally beautiful manifestations of indigo-dyed products. Both hail from France, which is no stranger to crafting beautifully dyed indigo garments.
No matter your choice — whether it’s a pair of unwashed Japanese selvage denim or simply a pair of sun-faded Levi’s — indigo plays a central role in so many of our favorite products. Be it common or mysterious, it’s always living and breathing and changing. And one of a kind.