You know how sometimes you have a crazy hair of an idea that won’t go away, and you just have to make it happen? Well, that happened to me last spring. I love denim, I love chambray shirts, I love things made by hand, and supporting women makes my world go round. I brought an idea to my team in April, and we decided that we needed to do it. At this point, the idea was bigger than just me. I had full team buy-in, and it was our idea collectively. This had to happen.

The idea centered around producing an ethically made t-shirt, hand-dyed with Southern-grown indigo that was unique, gorgeous, soft, easy, casual and went with pretty much everything. The production ultimately needed to support several businesses — each of which, at their core, support women. It had to be a t-shirt that we would all want to wear over and over and one that our StyleBlueprint team could test by wearing … we had to make sure we stood behind the final product.

And we did it. All of it. But it took six months from start to finish. Talk about a labor of love! We naively thought we could coordinate and produce all of this in two to three months. We learned that quality products take patience and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome. The indigo-dyed t-shirts just went on sale for $72 each (retail would have been $100), and they combine the talents and passions of four companies:

  • ABLE is a fashion company that is “challenging the culture of the fashion industry by creating transformative opportunities for women” globally and who, last year, bravely became the first fashion company to publish their wages. Not just their average wages, but the wages of the lowest-paid workers in their company. ABLE produced this ‘Lourdes Distressed Slouch Tee’ with fabric that is super soft, fashionably distressed just enough, and is made true-to-size — unlike many women’s t-shirts, which are often made teeny tiny.
  • Stony Creek Colors is a company located just north of Nashville that was founded by Sarah Bellos. Their purpose is to create vibrant, consistent and scalable bio-based dyes. Through these plants, with a current emphasis on indigo, farmers have access to sustainable farm income while the company proves its new model for replacing synthetic-based indigo dye on a global level. And, it just happens that the plant-based indigo dye produced is gorgeous.
  • Green Matters Natural Dye Company is owned by Winona Quigley in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and each t-shirt was hand-dyed in her vats using Stony Creek Colors indigo, which is different from indigos harvested in other parts of the world. The indigo dyeing process is one that requires patience, as each shirt must have the dye layered to produce the right color. This means the shirts must each be dipped and rinsed over and over again. Each dip produces a deeper indigo shade. Her production and sampling team is 100% female and located in Amish country on an industrial aeroponic farm. The studio is designed to capture rainwater in a 60,000-gallon cistern; thus all of the water used for production is rainwater. All of the dye used at Green Matters is plant-based, but indigo is the only dye that they process by hand. Winona tells us, “We have loved working with Sarah’s indigo and are thrilled to have a USA-grown blue to offer our clients.”
  • StyleBlueprint is our female-owned digital media company with a tagline that says “Connecting Women to Their Community.” As an extension to our publication, our online SB Shop is known for showcasing quality items produced in small batches with Southern style, perfect for everyday living.

We’re walking you through the t-shirt creation process in today’s article, mainly with photos, as they can be the best storytellers.

You can shop the SB Shop x ABLE x Green Matters Natural Dye Company x Stony Creek Colors indigo-dyed t-shirt here. We’ll link to it again at the bottom of this article, as we hope you look through all of these amazing photos that tell the story of this very limited edition t-shirt!

Step #1: ABLE makes the t-shirts.

ABLE employee- indigo t-shirt

Here, an ABLE employee is cutting the cloth to make a t-shirt at their factory in Peru. ABLE publishes their wages, for even their lowest-paid employees, to transparently show that they are paying a living wage for all. It’s fundamental to what this company believes in. According to the company website, “ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by providing economic opportunity for women.”

Step #2: The Stony Creek Colors indigo plants are grown on a Southern farm.

Sarah Bellos and indigo plants

Sarah Bellos is photographed here with her indigo plants, which are the cornerstone product of her company, Stony Creek Colors. This indigo was harvested and sent to Green Matters Natural Dye Company to dye our custom t-shirts for SB Shop.

Step #3: The t-shirts are dyed at Green Matters Natural Dye Company in Lancaster, PA.

Green Matters Natural Dye Company- indigo t-shirt

Here, Winona Quigley, owner of Green Matters Natural Dye Company, is rinsing fabric during the indigo dyeing process. Dip, rinse, dip, rinse … proper indigo dyeing is a process that requires precision and patience to attain the desired shade of blue. The production team and sampling team here are 100% female.

Step #4: Sample indigo-dyed t-shirts are sent to StyleBlueprint HQ in Nashville, TN.

Distressed indigo-dyed t-shirt

Winona sent us gorgeous samples to wear, to make sure they lived up to our standards. As you can see in this photo, the indigo shade is deep but not super dark. And there is a purposeful distressing to the fabric, with tiny holes at the seams for that popular, vintage/modern lived-in look. ** This is the truest representation of the color of these shirts.

Step #5: Shirts are ordered and ready for the SB Shop.

Indigo T-shirt

Here, some of the SB team is wearing our indigo-dyed t-shirt with black jeans, lighter jeans and green chinos. We’ve worn it with skirts as well — it’s a color that looks good on everyone. Each shirt is slightly different, as they are all hand-dyed. See it here in the SB Shop.

 

If you are interested in purchasing one of the 58 available t-shirts this collaboration resulted in, just click here!

We are open to other collaborations that allow us to showcase companies that work hard for a mission and produce quality products. If you have an idea, let us know at [email protected].

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Find out about more great Southern companies in our archives. Click HERE!