Born in Florence and with a degree in Economic Studies - his graduation thesis was on the marketing of dye plants - Stefano Panconesi has inherited from his father a life-long passion for natural dyeing. For over twenty years he has been active in promoting both the industrialization of natural dyeing and organic textiles.
Over the years, through his own firm PAI and then as a free-lance consultant, he has been researching natural dyes, their sources, uses and local traditions. He has studied historical recipes and textile materials, and the application of dyeing techniques to the textile industry.
He also knows eco-friendly, non-polluting materials and products suitable for industry. As a GOTS inspector he is an expert in all that concerns the legal aspects of sustainability.
In the dyeing process, which is physical as well as chemical, each natural fiber reacts differently, determining a tonal difference in the color obtained; dyes react more intensely with animal (protein) fibers, while with vegetable (cellulose) fibers yield lighter, more muted colors.
Unlike chemical dyes, where a single dye molecule is synthesized, natural dyes, most of which are of vegetable origin, are formed by several dye molecules, resulting in more vibrant colors. The dyestuff can be either the whole plant or parts of it in crushed or powdered form; (certified) extracts are now also used, to simplify the dyeing process and make industrial stockage easier. Natural dyes are eminently eco-friendly, as they derive from renewable sources. Each plant can yield a considerable number of shades through the use of mordants, mineral salts and vegetable tannins.
Although the position of the textile industry vis-à-vis the use of natural dyes has changed considerably in recent years, we have not witnessed so far any large-scale production, mainly because of poor understanding and limited acceptance of some of their characteristics, namely lower light fastness than with synthetic dyes, lower uniformity of shade and poor reproducibility. However the advantage of natural colours is their origin from healthy natural sources which do not use fossil resources and do not leave behind residues that are harmful to health. The difficulty in obtaining standardized cromatic effects makes them suitable to a semi-artisanal production of enterprises operating on a relatively limited scale but strong in research, personalization and uniqueness.
Preparation of a Natural Color Chart to be dyed on your own materials: yarns, fabrics, garments, and using our own technologies.
Final presentation at your company’s premises of a feasibility project which will be key to evaluating the move from study to production.
Production Assistance: according to the actual needs of a company, production assistance in dyeing stock, yarns, pieces, finished garment and leather and in printing can be given either at the company’s own dyeing plant or through reliable professional dyeworks.
Packaging and Labeling: naturally dyed products require special care when displayed for selling.
Printed or digitalized information to accompany products.
Promotion: assistance to firms and companies during national and international trade fairs, with computer-supported presentations.
Supplying raw materials and quality are essential, but they should go hand in hand with respect for internationally recognized standards of social and environmental responsibility throughout the whole supply chain. Information should be given not just about the components of the materials used but also their origin in crops and breeding farms, through methods of traceability and following guidelines, international conventions, human and workers’ rights declarations, environment conservation and biodiversity. Moreover, in today’s circular economy the chain of production of eco-sustainable garments should include the mode of their final disposal.
In order to satisfy increasingly informed and aware customers, demanding environment-friendly and socially responsible garments, companies should pay more attention to communication and use suitable means including not only the certification provided by specialized certified bodies, but also the use of social media. All this should result in labels which would reveal the garments’ supply chain and their whole history.
There is still a bit too much reserve in the Italian textile scene. Companies should come out with a clear and transparent message on their eco-sustainable programs.
Brands are often reluctant to reveal their suppliers, whose names do not appear on the finished garment, because they believe that their brands by themselves are a guarantee of respect of rules.
After collaborating with the most important Italian and international certifìying bodies both as an inspector and as a promoter, I now offer assistance to companies wishing to obtain a GOTS certification.
EVENTS | One aspect of my job is to give lectures and organize, or take part in, conferences, trade fairs, exhibitions, etc.
PORTFOLIO | My work begins with a study of the raw material provided by the customer or obtained through joint research; the more complex its structure, with different fibers and textures, the more fascinating the end result. I then create a color chart either by working with a single plant/color or trying to recreate the colors required by the customer by mixing different plants. The next step is the sample bath and checking the result for fastness to light, perspiration, friction, etc., before moving on to production.
Once the product is finalized, we design a market strategy and packaging for its presentation in trade fairs, including information on the particular production process.