Philip Huang


The four seasons are a wondrous thing, with the arrival of spring, bringing rejuvenation, summer when we can revel in bloom, autumn when the leaves start to change color, setting the tone for a cold winter. Here in Southeast Asia, there are no four seasons, the tropics means that there is a dry and wet season though within each “season” there is nuanced version of the four seasons, when cold air sets in at the end of the year followed by a heatwave in the tropical summer months of  March to June before the Monsoon season arrives during the equivalent of the northern hemisphere’s summer. It is during the monsoon when the rice paddies become bright green, the sky feels like slate, as the rains subside, the skies open into bright indigo skies of different shades that touch the plants and vegetation bringing out their natural color. In Isan, the seasons matter as they dictate the rice growing season as well as other plants and vegetables that are part of their livelihoods including indigo. 

Philip huang Indigofera Tinctoria plant

Indigofera Tinctoria plant

Our practice focuses on natural dyes, thus seasonality is a big part of it as some colors exist more potently in one season than another, also fermentation can be used to actually keep these colors the fruit is not available in that season.

A Seasonal Palette

The idea of a seasonal palette applies to our clothes as each season offers a different color or a different tone.  This is at the crux of what we do with different shades appearing during different seasons, indigo is harvested between the harvesting of rice, twice a year, it however can grow all year round, this is especially so for the two species that we use  Indigofera Tinctoria and Indigofera Suffruticosa. Needless to say, indigo blue is seasonless and also timeless, a dye that has been around for millennia, the first trace of indigo was traced to over 6000 years ago. Indigo was the very first color we started with and since then has expanded to a palette of over 10 seasonal shades. Indigo dye does not exist in nature in the way that blueberries are blue, it is through a fermentation process that the leaves and stalks of the plant are turned into a  paste, and the paste goes through a “reduction” or fermentation process that creates “indigotin” that the plant and paste becomes a blue dye. 

philip huang colour postcardd

PHILIP HUANG's Colour Postcard

All plants and fruits have a color and we were taught to look at the flesh of a fruit to determine the color of the dye. For example, mangoes grow all year round but in the month of April, it is mango season, also the hottest month of year when they are abundant. The leaves and bark of the mango tree are boiled to create a deep yellow dye that resembles yellow ochre, we call it Mango. This is a color that resembles a deep warm sun, and in the summer, it is no surprise that is most abundant in the hottest months of the year.

Philip huang mango dye
Mangifera indica bark and leaf

Another fruit that we work with the ebony berry, ebony berries often are found at temples or homes, the fruit is gathered and is boiled out to make a grey dye. When they are gathered in November - January, the cooler months, the berries yield a darker grey color versus when the berries are fermented over time to preserve the dye, fermented ebony berries yield a lighter shade.

Whilst fruits are often season, the tree bark of trees year round and we often use, as they did historically, the tree barks of trees that grow in abundance on the land to make dye. The tree barks of Pradu, Fang, and Lac are collectively compiled to create the shade oxblood. These sources produce an earthy crimson, a popular color ideal for many garments. Another popular tree bar is Pradu: Pterocarpus macrocarpus is a plant otherwise known as the Pradu, or Rosewood tree. From its first discovery, the Pradu has been rich with tradition and stories. Typically found in Southeast Asia, Pradu has been a valuable and long-lasting asset since its first discovery many years ago. By scraping the bark from this tree and letting it ferment in water overnight, a light brown color is formed. Amazingly, its color ranges depending on how young or old it is, with the younger tree bringing a lighter color, and the older tree yielding a darker hue. This natural dye is another extremely valuable source of rich, tradition-filled color.

Philip huang pradu rosewood bark dye
Pterocarpus macrocarpus bark and leaf

Another color that evokes the image of dry hot days is Dune, or a color made from the red earth of the land. This dye is made from the red earth from Baan Don Goy in  Sakon Nakhon in the Northeast of Thailand, when mixed with water, the dirt becomes a dye. 

The natural colors found within each tropical season are popular not only for their aesthetic but also for their representation of what the earth gives throughout the year. This seasonal palette is enhanced by natural dye, a product we carefully cultivate while being gentle and respectful to the earth. By using sources directly given from nature, we honor and preserve the traditions linked to the dye-making process.

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