Blue jeans are an iconic staple of just about any wardrobe. But all that denim has a dirty secret: the dye that makes blue jeans so ubiquitous is actually made from fossil fuels and toxic chemicals. For thousands of years, when humans wanted to get a deep blue color, they used natural indigo from Indigofera plants. But in 1897, German chemists started selling a cheaper synthetic version for industrial use. Most pairs of jeans today are dyed with synthetic indigo.
Huue is a startup in Berkeley, California, on a mission to reverse engineer indigo molecules using microbes and sugar. They’re still in the R&D phase, testing out different strains and inputs to achieve a product that could drop into existing production processes. The next challenge is implementing their creation at scale and even expanding to other dyes. We spent a day in their lab to see how it all worked and even did some tie-dyeing on our own. Check out our video to see a colorful solution to a dirty process.