Innovations in colour and sustainability

From experimenting with the use of bacteria to create colour, to the exploration of creating new garments from old fabrics, the Haberdashers’ two Royal College of Art scholars are pushing the boundaries of colour and sustainability. 


Textile dyeing is one of the most polluting aspects of the global fashion industry, yet one that we give little thought to as we wear our clothes of all hues and shades. The dying process uses large amounts of water to ensure vivid colours bind to the fabric and don’t fade or wash out.

Chloe Benham, one of Haberdashers’ RCA scholars, is at the cutting edge of new techniques in the dying process that may have the potential to counter this devastation.

She’s experimenting with an innovative laboratory technique that extracts colour from the pigments produced by different kinds of bacteria. The cultured bacteria are then used to create a print paste.

The challenge – and surely opportunity – of this process is that there is an element being out of control: living colour systems determine their own hue and shade, rather than the traditional form of specific colour matching using chemical dyes.

Chloe will design fabrics from what is extracted from the pigments, and embrace the loss of control. Her practice questions who is really in control: the human, the bacteria, the material or the colour?

‘Knowing I had this Haberdashers’ scholarship reduced the financial pressure on me to over commit to working, meaning I could concentrate on my studies. I will always be grateful to you for supporting me.’


Jaydine Rolle is the second Haberdashers’ scholar at RCA, studying for her MA Textiles. She is experimenting with the use of old, donated fabrics to create new, dynamic pieces.

In time it may be possible for Jaydine to focus on pre- and post-industrial waste in order to contribute to a more sustainable way of doing fashion.

‘The impact of the Haberdashers’ grant I have been awarded has been monumental’

Jaydine says, ‘The impact of the Haberdashers’ grant I have been awarded has been monumental. It has given me the opportunity and space to develop my personal voice and identity, within an environment which advocates and supports maximum creativity’.

Both Jaydine and Chloe complete their MA Textiles this academic year. The Company wishes them all the very best in their future careers and looks forward to hearing how they progress in the coming years.