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Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About Indigo

Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About Indigo

From the shores of Okinawa Island, to the ocean’s deep is a natural wonder: a gradient from white-sand shores and translucent waters to a midnight blue. This stunning sight inspired our newest treasure, the Ruri Okinawa Indigo Scarf. Hand-dyed by artisans who harvest Indigo in an untouched part of Okinawa, the Indigo Scarf has fascinating ties to its tropical provenance and a history of Japanese Indigo. I was surprised to learn these fascinating facts about the Indigo dyeing process.


Indigo is a living dye.

Unlike synthetic pigments or dyes, plant-based Indigo dyeing uses Japanese Indigo leaves that are harvested in the late summer months. The plants undergo a fermentation process in large vats, bubbling up and appearing to breathe. Bubbles on the surface indicate a good-quality Indigo. This is why the artisans I’ve met say that their Indigo is alive.


Indigo dye is not blue.  

Even though you may know Indigo as a richly blue color, Indigo dye is first green and gradually turns blue when it comes in contact with air. Once the Indigo brew turns a bright jade green, artisans know it’s ready for dyeing. The transformation is a magical process, the result of the harmony between the air, temperature, humidity and the plant itself. Each time, the color is unique. Even though the artisans behind the Ruri Indigo Scarf have been hand-dyeing with Indigo for thirty-five years, the transformation of green to blue remains a captivating mystery.


An Indigo unlike any other.

The Indigo plants native to Okinawa, Ryuku-ai, are unique from other varieties of Indigo because they yield a gentler, softer blue. They have a little more red, warming the color. According to local folklore, Ryuku-ai is beloved not only for its beautiful blue but also its ability to ward off snakes and insects.


A colorful past.

Since the Edo Period, Indigo has been one of the most commonly-used dyes in Japan. The medium-blue hue has been referred to as“Japan Blue.” The Japan National Football team has embraced Indigo, too--they’ve been nicknamed “Samurai Blue.”


Always in the blue.

When I asked the artisans who made our Ruri Okinawa Indigo Scarf if they themselves wear Indigo-dyed clothes, they enthusiastically said yes, every day. Wearing Indigo makes them feel at ease and like themselves. Their hope for this treasure is that it gives the wearer a cozy, soothing moment.

I love having the Indigo Scarf for travel, as it makes an effortless cover-up on a cooler night, or a light and flowing wrap over my shoulders when it’s sunny. Made of soft organic cotton, the Indigo Scarf is as light as a refreshing breeze. It’s my new summer essential, alongside a folding fan to stay cool. What are your summer must-haves?


Victoria Signature

Victoria Tsai
Chief Treasure Hunter

Published July 7, 2016
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