Fabric dyeing: the biggest pollution problem in the fashion industry

, ,

The chemicals, the waste of water, etc. There are many problems that it poses, and some solutions that are already being worked on

The contrasts, the bicolor effect, the coordinates, the color block. The use of color is fundamental to our personal expression. But with dyeing techniques, which contribute so much to the climate crisis, our love of color will make the world a much duller place, unless things change quickly. “We need to change the whole picture of the industry,” says Michael Stanley-Jones, co-secretary of the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. He is one of eight experts who share their vision with Vogue about what is being done to address the art of dyeing in fashion. Here are the five key problems, plus some potential solutions.

Bangladesh has been reported to rank 10 in the top 20 of the world’s major rivers polluted by the Buriganga River
© Allison Joyce / Getty Images

1. Problem: Waste of water

On a global scale, the textile industry uses six to nine thousand billion liters of water each year just for dyeing fabrics. At a time when all continents are facing water shortage problems, it would be like filling more than two million Olympic swimming pools every year with fresh water, and then not allowing anyone to swim in them. (Not that you want to swim in the toxic water of a dye mill, though.)

Possible solution: Bio-inspired materials

“I think there is a lack of diversity around how two knowledge systems can create something new,” says Natsai Audrey Chieza, designer and founder of the creative bio-design agency Faber Futures. Chieza is one of the leading voices in the growing biodesign movement, which integrates living things like bacteria into new materials, products, and even artwork. “The work of design and science combined is about bringing together two different ways of knowing and doing, in order to address a problem.

Chieza creates opportunities for collaboration between creatives and scientists on “planet-centered” products and systems. Working with Ginkgo Bioworks, his team recently discovered that a pigment-producing microbe can be used as a clothing dye. The color ranges from pink to blue, depending on the pH of the soil in which it is found, and creates a beautiful dyeing effect on the fabric. Also crucial is the fact that it uses 500 times less water than standard dyeing techniques, and completely eliminates harmful chemicals. “If you are more creative with natural materials, or in this case in design with living systems, you can make something very special,” says Chieza, “you can get something completely different.

Industry in Bangladesh discards dyes in the Turag River
© Getty Images

2. Problem: Chemicals

Nearly three-quarters of the water consumed by the dye mills ends up as non-potable waste – a toxic soup of dyes, salts, alkalis, heavy metals and chemicals that are used to fix color to our clothes. “Some of the chemicals used in Indian dye shops are, in fact, banned in Europe. A dilemma for those of us who wear imported clothing,” says Virginia Lewis, senior policy analyst for WaterAid. Filtering wastewater is also expensive, and at dyeing centers in Bangladesh, India, and China, it is often discharged into rivers illegally, resulting in an acidic discharge of color. (Once in Mumbai, the water became so polluted that local dogs turned completely blue after swimming.) ) “These chemicals in the wastewater can affect the local ecosystem, or the people who use the water for fishing, washing or even drinking,” explains Laila Petrie, WWF’s global leader in textiles and cotton. “They can harm plants and animals, and potentially enter the food chain.

Possible solution: Dyes made from by-products

The biotechnology company Colorfix seeks to promote fabric dyes that are sustainable on three fronts: environmental, social and economic. Established in 2015, the company converts molasses – the by-product of sugar – into dyes that can be used to dye textiles. The method does not require additional use of arable land (unlike some natural dyes), but can be applied in areas where sugar is already grown. Colorfix also replaces fixation chemicals – the most toxic aspect of the dyeing process – with the by-products of biofuels, which co-founder and CEO Dr. Orr Yarkoni explains are a primary crop, with a positive environmental function. Reusing waste materials “means the entire process uses 10 times less water, and 20% less energy.

© Frédéric Soltan / Getty Images

3. Problem: The risk of unemployment

Dye shops offer a vital source of employment and income in emerging economies – 81 percent of Bangladesh’s export economy, for example, is exclusively ready-made garments. Women, who represent about 80 percent of the global apparel workforce, are at greater risk of being affected by any systemic changes or by products that are not carefully analyzed. Therefore, it is crucial that biodesign includes materials that do not cause mass unemployment.

Possible solution: State intervention

“Any radical change can have an enormously negative impact if not planned properly,” says Yarkoni, noting that Colorfix has only replaced the dye itself, and no jobs or machines. In Jones’ opinion, too much reliance is being placed on technicians, like Yarkoni, to solve the climate crisis. “The only option for real change depends on whether we quickly share the innovations that work and implement them more quickly. Everyone must have access to the same information, and technologies,” says Jones. In his role for the UN, Jones helps coordinate different climate projects and actions by member governments, agencies and partners. It is only through this integrated approach, he says, that the right kind of incentives, investments, and legislation can be addressed globally; creating systemic change. “It is not only science and technology that we need to save ourselves,” explains Jones, “we also need unified action from the societies and governments of the world.

Hands of a dyer
© Dirk Renckhoff / Alamy Stock Photo

4. Problem: Programmed consumerism

The difficulty with sustainability is that it is a term that encompasses many different issues. So while it’s great to hear a fashion brand advocate low-impact dyeing, it’s useless if the product is then discarded, or if the supply chain turns out to be exploitative. The linear approach of ‘take, consume, destroy’ has existed for centuries and it seems to be a challenge for companies to break with this tradition to influence change.

Possible solution: A circular economy

Supported by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the idea of a circular economy contemplates products that are designed and optimized for a continuous cycle of recycling. If collected globally, it would be the biggest change in human consumption since the industrial revolution. BITE is one example – a luxury brand of women’s clothing with an aesthetic based entirely on a range of natural dyes. “The use of natural dyes is a way to communicate a deeper sense of product and consumer awareness,” explains Creative Director Elliot Atkinson. Dyes are only one crucial aspect of BITE’s sustainable goal. “We plan to buy back customers’ collectibles, give them a 20 percent discount on their next purchase, and then create new garments from previous stock,” explains BITE’s Chief Operating Officer, Veronika Kant. The idea is to create a circular system, redesigning, reusing and reselling the clothes. “We want to create a real connection between the customer and the garment,” explains Kant.

Extraction of natural dyes through the cochineal method
© Nicole Esteres

5. Problem: Producing natural dyes on a larger scale

Natural dyes are more environmentally friendly than synthetic ones, but they are not a foolproof solution for mass production. Because they are difficult to obtain, they may require heavy metals to fix the color, and often require arable land for planting.

Possible solution: Reviving artisanal techniques

Since the introduction of synthetic processes during the 1960s, knowledge about natural dyeing has been reduced to the point of extinction – but the climate crisis has prompted many artisans to rescue ancient techniques. “The colors that come from plants go beyond beauty, the dyes are connected to a living being, to a superior knowledge and wisdom,” says Mexican textile artist Porfirio Gutiérrez. Based in Oaxaca, his family is working on a book that brings together thousands of years of “word-of-mouth” techniques, (cochinillas for reds, tree moss for golds, pomegranate for blacks), for a wider audience. But, although he is a passionate educator, Gutierrez does not believe that natural dyes are scalable in a sustainable way. “I don’t think multinationals should switch to natural dyes,” he says. “Natural dyes were never intended for the mass market, they are for clothing and personal expression. And while the most sustainable form of self-expression would be to dye and make our own clothes, it’s good to know that bio-design could also have our backs. “Right now, we are forced to choose between style and sustainability, which has weakened what nature had to offer us,” Chieza adds. “Working with nature, rather than taking something away from it, is how we can really innovate.


Textile Innovation: Fabrics for a more sustainable future

, , , ,

Since the origin of civilization, natural fabrics have been part of societies, using vegetable sources, such as cotton or hemp, or animal sources, such as wool or silk. However, with the industrial revolution, an industry that until then had been handcrafted began to be mechanized and new types of fabrics began to be introduced that no longer came directly from nature and had undergone certain chemical transformations in order to be obtained.

In this way, at the beginning of the 20th century a development began that has led us to the present day to a textile industry dominated by synthetic fibres such as nylon or polyester. Being the latter, one of the most used fabrics in the textile industry today and one of the most pollutant worldwide due to manufacturing processes based on oil.

Fabrics of the future made reality

For years, the current textile industry has been taking its first steps to achieve a real change in its production processes, taking advantage of technological development to obtain new materials that have the least impact on the environment and, at the same time, improve the quality of life of the people involved in their production.

In this sense, brands such as Piñatex have emerged that have managed to create a type of natural fabric, with a similar appearance to leather, from the use of fibers from pineapple leaves. Its creator Carmen Hijosa, worked for years in the design and manufacture of products made with leather and decided to go one step further to investigate and discover alternatives to traditional leather through products made with natural fibers and 100% vegan.

In her production, she tries to keep the impacts as low as possible. “The fibers are extracted from the leaves during a process called decortication, which is done on the plantation itself by the farming community. In addition, the product derived from this process is biomass that can be converted in turn into organic fertilizer and biogas” explain from the brand.

And from pineapple leaves to coconut shells. The company 37.5 has developed a technology from which they have managed to extract active carbon from the coconut shell creating fabrics with a faster drying process and that repel bad odors. “These particles use the heat released by the body itself to eliminate moisture. This means that the warmer this fabric is, the stronger its ability to eliminate moisture and, at the same time, the more comfortable the garment becomes,” they explain on the company’s website. Brands like Adidas or North Face have already included this technology in their fabrics for the production of T-shirts, linings, gloves, footwear, etc.

On the other hand, the German company Qmilch has created an innovative process that makes it possible to produce fabric with a silk-like texture from milk that is no longer suitable for consumption. Its creator Anke Domaske and her team, after years of research and trial and error, managed to reduce the milk to protein powder, boil it and, from there, compress it to extract threads.

This fiber comes completely from renewable sources and in its production, water is hardly needed, since “to obtain a kilo of fiber, only five minutes and a maximum of two liters of water are needed” explain from the company. In addition, “the garments obtained are organic, antibacterial, free of harmful substances and dermatologically tested” perfect for people with skin allergies.

SeaCell™ is another innovative fabric from renewable sources but this time obtained from a type of algae that grows in the fjords of Iceland and can only be cut once every four years to encourage the regeneration of the same in the area. To produce the fabric, the company SmartfiberAG has managed to mix this type of algae with lyocel, to achieve a type of fiber that maintains the revitalizing and antioxidant properties of the algae in the garments themselves.

These four companies are a reflection of the current reality in which the consumer is gradually demanding a change towards a more responsible and conscious production model.

Fortunately, it is becoming increasingly common to discover companies that, like these, have made sustainability the focus of their business activity through research and technology with the aim of achieving a greener future for the textile industry.


Paper dresses, the dresses of the 60’s that anticipated the concept of ‘fast fashion

, , ,

Made of cellulose, these designs were the perfect blank canvas for the pop culture and mass consumption that led the youth in the mid-s. XX

Mary Quant says the future will always belong to the young. A devastating phrase that perfectly summarizes the radical changes that adolescents have brought about throughout the 20th century. What became apparent in the twenties became an earthquake in the sixties that turned society upside down in all areas. The autobiography of the British designer, Quant by Quant, is a constant demonstration of a generation’s breakthrough character. Her way of thinking, of seeing sexuality and, of course, her way of dressing, clearly clashed with the style of her mothers: “The voices, rules and culture of this generation are as different from those of the past as tea and wine. And the clothes they choose evoke their lives… daring and happy, never boring,” wrote one of the people responsible for creating the miniskirt in her memoir.

His was a generation that became the center of the universe. They shopped in stores at the almost frenetic rhythm that marked the music that came out of one of them (something that did not exist until now). After two minutes they got tired of one trend, they moved on to another. They would put on dresses and accessories as crazy as their way of consuming. Their thirst for novelty contributed to accelerate the gears of fashion at a faster and faster pace, until they reached an implanted system that today the industry tries to moderate. If the sector found in the youngest a vein eager to consume, there was at the end of the 60s a fashion related to them that was much more than an ephemeral trend: the paper dresses came to become the perfect metaphor of a generation that seemed to anticipate the fast fashion and its way of conceiving the clothes.

Tony Curtis painting on Claudia Cardinale’s paper dress during the shooting of the film ‘Don’t Make Waves’ (1967)

The experimental character of the decade brought vinyl or metals to the catwalk. It was only a matter of time before they saw the potential of paper: it already existed as sanitary protective material and disposable bedding for hospitals. It needed to be converted into a fabric that could be hung on hangers. In fact, two of the multinationals associated with paper were the first to be linked to these dresses. And they did it with two respective patented materials that were not only paper, but formulations from cellulose. Scott Paper Company (responsible, yes, for firms like Scottex) used a rayon mesh for its Dura-weave, while Kimberly Stevens resorted to nylon for Kaycel, using as was customary for their products the letter K, as in their kleenex.

It all started back in 1965, when a Scott Paper engineer thought there might be possibilities in paper fashion. He asked his wife to pattern a simple A-line dress so he could make garments to sell to department stores as a novel summer piece. Jonathan Walford tells Sixties Fashion that there wasn’t much interest, but as a sponsor of the Junior Miss Pageant beauty contest in 1966, Scott turned it into a promotional item that was broadcast all over the United States. Sales were launched in April of that year: for $1.25 you could buy one of two possible paper dresses through the mail. Marketed under the Paper Caper brand, one was characterized by its red and yellow bandana print. The other paper dress included a work by Op-Art, the hypnotic paintings by Victor Vasarely that the Italian designer Roberto Capucci had already translated into a coat the previous year.

First ‘paper dresses’ by Scott Company with a bandana design and in Op-art (1966)

As if it were an Ikea piece of furniture, each dress came with an instruction manual explaining how to modify or care for it, as well as a warning on how putting it in the washing machine could eliminate its fireproofing capacity. “To shorten the dress, all you need is a firm hand and a pair of scissors […] While you shouldn’t count on wearing it more than once, depending on the use there are those who have been able to wear it up to three or four times. You can also cut the dress to use it as disposable towels for guests, or even as an apron. It will never replace the black dress as a basic closet item, but as a conversation piece and to attract attention, Paper Caper is unique,” he said.

The paper dress seemed to adapt like a glove to the needs of the youngest: on the one hand, it only allowed several uses, the perfect excuse to move on to the next novelty. And it did so at a very affordable price that everyone could afford. On the other hand, it fitted perfectly with the anti-stitching nature of those new female customers who rejected the “make, do and mend” attitude of the previous generation. It was no longer the idea of mending and recycling that prevailed with scarcity in World War II. It was now more interesting to take a pair of scissors and tape than to spend the whole night with the sewing kit. Moreover, for those young women eager to explore the growing freedoms of the decade, “going out in a dress that was blatantly easy to pull off posed an exciting way to underscore the new sexual politics,” the Victoria & Albert Museum said in an article about paper dresses.

A precise hand and a pair of scissors. That’s all it took to personalize a paper dress and make it ‘short’.

In the midst of the Cold War and the struggle for space leadership, paper dresses were also the closest thing to looking to the future. They were “the answer to space laundry,” as defined by an article in the November 25, 1966 issue of Life magazine. After all, who would consider putting a washing machine in orbit? Paper dresses were a much more feasible option, especially considering that one of the main attractions of the publication was that “it doesn’t look like paper at all, but rather like a cotton fabric”.

La cifra que más suele salir a relucir es la de las ventas de Scott Paper: hacia finales de año ya llevaba vendidos unos 500.000 vestidos. Los beneficios de la ropa de papel, según cuentan en Dress and Popular Culture, atrajeron más de sesenta manufacturas, con ventas estimadas entre los 50 y los 100 millones de dólares en un año. El tejido de papel se vendía al por mayor a unos 8-10 dólares la yarda (5-7 euros el metro, aproximadamente), aunque se esperaba que bajase de precio. Otra de las compañías que lideró el sector fue Mars of Asheville, cuyos vestidos venían etiquetados bajo el nombre “Waste Basket Boutique” (algunos se conservan todavía en la colección del Victoria & Albert Museum de Londres). En su obra, Jonathan Walford explica que hacia finales de 1966 era el principal fabricante de desechables: producía 80.000 prendas de papel a la semana, habían vendido 1,4 millones de unidades y las ventas alcanzaban los 3,5 millones de dólares.

‘Paper dress’ Waste Basket Boutique (1967).

There were several designers who created paper dresses: Scott Paper commissioned Paco Rabanne to make paper dresses to complement his most famous plastic and metal designs on the Parisian catwalk. Ossie Clark also produced her own disposable models at about fifteen shillings a piece, while Bonnie Cashin devised a line of clothing called Paper-Route. As part of a photo shoot immortalized by Horst P. Horst for Look magazine in 1967, several of the leading couturiers participated with their own paper designs: according to Walford, Fabiani did it with a gold dress, Pucci with black and white shorts, Belville with a wedding dress, Dior with a short white dress and Givenchy with a silver quilted coat. Horst himself was involved in the designs, creating a green paper tailor’s suit that actor Steve McQueen wore in the publication’s photo essay.

Models during the presentation in Paris of the ‘Puzzle’ collection, dressed in paper clothes (1967).

There were designers who even specialized in paper fashion. This was the case of Elisa Daggs, a creator based in New York whose designs can be found in the showcases of museums such as the MET, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco or the Fashion History Museum of Ontario (Canada). Specializing in garments such as kaftans, she made several paper commissions linked to international airlines. The first was a promotional sari for Air India (1967) and a year later she collaborated with Trans World Airlines, for the French line (in gold) and for the Italian line (a kind of kimono with a belt). His designs are the perfect example of the complexity that the structure of the paper dresses acquired: they were no longer simple dresses with an A silhouette and pure lines. They were now filled with ruffles, or their patterns included up to eight pieces, like some striped dress she produced in 1967.

The 60s brought a very close relationship between the air world and fashion. The ‘paper dresses’ also reached the uniforms of the British Airways hostesses (1967).

In addition, paper dressing led to declines that no longer considered it exclusively as an affordable garment. In its November 1966 issue, Life magazine spoke of the wide range of prices that this piece could acquire, “from the thousand dollars of an evening gown” to the little more than a dollar that a beach dress could cost. In the same article, the three models that Tzaim Luksus created for the Paper Ball (a charity gala at the Wadsworth Atheneum museum in Hartford) were included, and their price was one thousand dollars. The same cost of the dress, also by Luksus, that the actress Arlene Dahl wore in the famous television program I’ve got a secret (1966), where she presented a collection of paper dresses.

“There is no need to worry about such a democratic dress (one that everyone can afford) wiping out the fashion elite. Wealthy and socially connected women can ask artists to create several special pieces of paper for a special event and then donate them to a museum, as long as the garment has not deteriorated on the dance floor,” wrote social commentator Marilyn Bender in statements collected by Sixties Fashion. Despite their humble nature, it was not the first time a paper dress was considered a luxury: they were highly prized in Japan during the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and during the Edo period (1603-1867) the more expensive ones were considered exquisitely elegant.

The perfect canvas for 60’s pop culture

There are those who have revealed themselves against the sartorial excess of these garments. The graphic artist Harry Gordon wanted to treat the paper dress like a canvas: his ‘poster dresses’ sold for three dollars, with very simple A-line patterns and no sleeves. The absolute star of the design was its print: five models with five images ranging from an eye to a cat, through a rose, a rocket taking off (in orbit with the space fever that impacted on fashion) and an open hand with the Buddhist symbol of peace. The initial launch in the UK in 1967 included the large face of Bob Dylan, but he did not give permission to be printed at his launch in the US the spring of the following year.

Paper ‘poster’ dress with Bob Dylan’s face

Gordon was not the only artist who delved into this dress. Andy Warhol also made it a starting point for advertising: he had been experimenting with Campbell’s soup cans since 1962, a motif repeated ad nauseam and becoming a pop icon wherever they were found. He translated it into fashion through ‘souper dress’, a paper model that recreates the can motif multiple times. Everyone wanted to have their own model: as Jonathan Walford says in Sixties Fashion, the food company Joy Green Giant announced its ‘paper dress’ with a green leaf print in 1967. Yellow Pages also offered its own designs, printed with newspaper sheets in yellow. Time magazine included a promotional black and white model with the letters of the publication’s name.

At a time when both fashion and art were a faithful reflection of the mass consumption of the time, paper dress became the perfect symbol of everything that was happening around it. It could become a wearable work of art, a walking advertisement, even an element of political propaganda. This was demonstrated at least by the U.S. presidential elections in 1968. For posterity there are still the ‘political’ paper dresses with prints of the main political candidates: Nixon’s incorporated his name in blue letters on a white background, a design that several girls in Pittsburgh wore when the politician arrived at the city’s Civic Arena. In addition to the stars, Bobby Kennedy’s included his own black and white face. In the campaign to win the Republican nomination in the presidential race, Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s face was repeated several times on a yellow and blue background.

Paper dresses with the faces of several American presidential candidates (1968).
Political ‘paper dresses’ for the presidential campaigns of Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon (1968)
Paper dress from Robert Kennedy’s election campaign with portrait, by Norman Rockwell (produced by James Sterling Paper Fashions Ltd. New York, 1968)

Wet paper

Paper seemed like the material of tomorrow: madness had reached the jewels and even the eyelashes, as Life collected in 1967. Elisa Daggs said that sealing machines would replace sewing machines. Some even predicted a future in which dresses could come in large rolls, like sandwich bags, and be sold for pennies. But the reality is that despite its impact, the fever lasted only a few years. By the end of the 1960s, and in the face of a short supply of Dura-weave and Kaycel, the major manufacturers were using Reemay and Tyvek (both patented by Dupont) or Fibron for clothing that was more like disposable clothing than paper. Discovering their impracticality was also one of the reasons for their decline: “Although the garments were intended to be worn no more than once, it seemed disappointing to discover that this was true. The dresses would swell up when the person sat down, the styles of the sleeves would often become cramped. The hems had a tendency to fold along the edge,” Walford described in Sixties Fashion.

Over the years, paper dresses became, almost literally, wet paper: their ephemeral nature and throwaway philosophy clashed with the anti-consumerist ideas adopted by a new generation of young people that marked the end of the 1960s. As a counterculture, the hippie movement opposed exacerbated capitalism, betting on a fashion of ethnic aesthetics that put back in value the crafts and the manual works like crochet or macramé. Although paper dresses have returned in an isolated way on the catwalk with more experimental designers such as Hussein Chalayan or Rei Kawakubo (his collection for Comme des Garçons spring summer 1992 was inspired by Japanese cut paper drawings in the line of goshoguruma and momiji), today they remain at the foot of the page as an anecdote of history that is preserved in museums. A reminder that we once looked into space for alternative materials that could be adapted to our future. The example that, at a pace that tries to be slower and more conscious, history always repeats itself.

Paper dress with a printed hand, by artist Edith Ryker (1967).


This is the rebirth of the iconic ‘Jackie 1961’: the new genderless Gucci bag

, , , , , , , , , ,

One of the Italian firm’s most emblematic historical designs enjoys a new life thanks to the colorful, gender-neutral models created by creative director Alessandro Michele for the 2020 autumn-winter season

A good example of this is the reintroduction of the essential Jackie bag in their autumn-winter 2020 collection. The piece, an original design from 1961, became one of the favorite accessories of Jackie Kennedy, first lady of the United States in the early sixties, who wore it on multiple occasions throughout her life.

Backstage of the Gucci FW20 women’s show. Small shoulder bag ‘Jackie 1961’ with beige/ebony GG Supreme canvas, a material with a reduced environmental impact, with brown leather trim.
© Cosimo Sereni/Gucci
Man fashion show FW20 Gucci. 

However, the almost sixty decades that have passed since then have also left a forced mark on the model. Although the structural lines of the first design have been respected, the current models have their own idiosyncrasies. The keys to the contemporary reinterpretation carried out by the firm’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, can be summarized in five points, as explained by the brand

1 “It transcends the classical categorizations of accessories thanks to its non-binary attitude. Smaller in size than the original, the bag is present in the house’s fashion shows combined with suits, grunge outfits and clothing of reduced proportions”.

2 “Inspired by a vintage Jackie taken from his personal archive, Alessandro Michele proposes a silhouette reduced to its minimum expression in three different sizes: medium, small and mini”.

3 “The sober lines highlight the emblematic piston closure and the exquisite leather that makes it up. All versions of the 1961 Jackie are available in black and red leather, as well as in GG Supreme canvas with the company’s triband”.

4 “The small and mini models have a wider range of colors including natural python skin and a range of pastel shades including lilac, butter yellow, light blue and soft pink”.

5 “A long removable strap reinforces the flexible character and versatile practicality of the new Jackie.

The ‘Jackie 1961’ bag, by Gucci, in cream color.
© Gucci
The new ‘Jackie 1961’, by Gucci, in purple.
© Gucci

There are many personalities linked to the world of culture and entertainment who have already begun to express the stylistic possibilities of this model. From the singer Harry Styles or the actress Cate Blanchett, on the international scene, to style prescribers, creators and local actors like Ursula Corbero, Jedet, Greta Fernandez or Filip Custic. And yes, the result, as you can see, is magnificent.



History of a Red Sole. It is clear that the color red raises passions and if not that they say it to two big companies of footwear of luxury that have come up to the confrontation in the Courts of Justice of the European Union.

Louboutin and the battle for red soles

The footwear designer and master shoemaker par excellence of French origin Christian Louboutin, won in June 2018, after six years of confrontations the lawsuit he had to defend that the red color of the soles of his shoes was a distinctive sign and main element of the European Union trademark that he has registered. The red soles have become a fashion icon and as a red mark is valid and protected.

It should be remembered that since 1992 the shoes designed by Christian Louboutin have been characterised by their red lacquered soles.

Can a colour be registered as a European Union Trade Mark?

The Court of Justice of the European Union has finally recognized Louboutin’s exclusivity to use red soles in his shoe designs.
It all started when a Dutch shoe company, Van Haren, copied the red colour of the soles of designer Christian Louboutin. The judgment states that the red mark is a registrable sign and that it was protected before the Dutch company began to manufacture its shoes with red soles and to market them in its shops.

The decision means that since June 2018 the luxury footwear firm can keep its most characteristic stamp, the red sole, registered as its own brand.

There are other companies that have a registered colour, such as the jewellery company Tiffany&Co, which in 1998 registered the so-called Tiffany blue. The British food multinational Cadbury legally protected the purple wrappers. For its part, the mobile phone company T-Mobile, registered in the Netherlands the magenta color that identifies its logo. In Spain there are also other cases of patented colors, such as the blue of Evax packages, the green of El Corte Inglés or the green of the Guardia Civil, among others.

Without a doubt, the colour of a brand is an unmistakable insignia and therefore deserves protection, or is the colour Ferrari red just any colour?

Protection of footwear designs.

This issue of the battle for red soles goes back to 2012, when Van Haren was selling women’s high-heeled shoes with red soles in its stores. Louboutin sued him in the Dutch court, as he infringed the exclusive rights that Louboutin had obtained by registering the colour red for the soles of his high-heeled shoes.

It should be remembered that Louboutin legally registered the heel with the red sole in 2010, and do you know why? We’ll tell you why at the end of the post.

On the other hand, the Dutch company claimed that the designer’s trademark was invalid, excusing itself that according to the European Union’s Trademark Law it is forbidden to register any sign formed only by the shape of a product, in this case the sole. The judge concluded that the concept of “shape” must be effected in accordance with its usual sense of language. And in everyday language, a color in itself, without being spatially delimited, is never considered to constitute a shape.

For that reason, Louboutin made it clear that when he registered the mark the outline of the sole does not form part of the mark, but is intended to highlight the position of the mark, which is the colour red, a colour which is stipulated in the international identification code such as Pantone 18 1663TP and which he applied to his red soles.

In other words, Louboutin’s mark does not consist of the specific shape of the sole of a high-heeled shoe. Drawing the sole serves only to highlight the red colour of the object.

The red sole has allowed the public to attribute its origin to its creator, Christian Louboutin, over the years, thus creating a true personal brand that is different and associated with red soles.

The Advocate General of the European Union Court, Maciej Szpunar, was in favour of annulling the French designer’s mark. For him a mark combining colour and shape can be refused according to the agreements of the directive. Szpunar maintains that the analysis must be made of the intrinsic value of the shape without taking into account the attractiveness it makes to the product because of the reputation of the trademark owner.