Black is perhaps the most popular color in fashion, appearing in everything from little black dresses to classic black tees. But when we dress ourselves in chic black outfits, we rarely stop to ask what it took to dye garments that color.
The truth is, most black pigment comes from a material called carbon black, which is made by incompletely burning heavy petroleum. This produces fine black particles, which are then used to do things like create printing inks, dye clothes, and reinforce tires. But manufacturing carbon black is bad for the planet. Excavating fossil fuels and burning them contributes to global warming. Moreover, experts believe that carbon black is likely carcinogenic to humans.
Vollebak, a futuristic clothing label based in the U.K., has been working to develop a more eco-friendly approach to black clothing. It’s partnered with a U.S. biomaterials company called Living Ink to create a pigment from algae used to produce the $110 Algae Black Shirt, which launches this week. In contrast to carbon black, algae is actually good for the environment because it absorbs carbon dioxide through photosynthesis while producing oxygen.