To pass into the world of Sencha & Bourbon is to enter into a palette of colors, global cultures and collaborative desires. Brought to life by Paola, this brand of scarves and other naturally dyed textiles was born between Paris and San Francisco. “I made my first vegetable dye projects when I was a student at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture in Paris. One night I gathered the spices and teas and coffees in my kitchen and mixed them into some salted, boiling water. The next day, I was surprised and delighted to see dozens of different colors, most unexpected and surprising, before me.”
With soft, muffled tints, the subtlety of the natural colors of Sencha & Bourbon vibrates from shades of flesh to pale sea greens. To give birth to these signature hues, Paola uses coffee, turmeric, “whose color varies from one hour to the next, from mustard yellow to chick yellow,” annatto seeds [editor’s note: flora of tropical American with pink flowers and red fruits] that give “an orange so vibrant that nobody would guess it came from a natural dye,” and Japanese matcha [editor’s note: finely powdered green tea] for celadons and glassy sea greens.
These ingredients come from across the globe. They are souvenirs of travel, of encounter, of somebody dear, and sometimes simply friendly gifts. “I use Russian indigo because it reminds me of somebody whom I love; a friend brought me hibiscus flowers from Benin; my mother recently sent annatto from Guadeloupe.”
The methods of dyeing are rudimentary, using hot, super-salinated water so the dye penetrates and remains after rinsing. For ombré effects, nothing is calculated or meticulous. “First I plunge the fabric into water without dye, to open the fibers. Little by little, I add the color, without checking on where I am because that part is instinctive.” It is this very incertitude that pushes the desire to create for Paola.
These natural pigments necessitate expression on fabrics that, likewise, are respectful of the environment. “I use raw silk, notably, produced by a group of Istanbul women undergoing social reinsertion, bamboo viscose from France, and Portuguese cashmere. In all cases, I prefer building a relationship in trust with a producer rather than remaining loyal to some label that is never fully satisfying from A to Z.”
Each Sencha & Bourbon scarf is personalized by Paola with the initials or first name of the person to whom it is destined, “so that the scarf becomes an object of attachment, almost an extension of the skin and a guardian against overconsumption.” All in all, a show of careful savoir-faire with humankind and the environment.
Photo Credits: Sencha & Bourbon