Some quick and dirty facts about indigo:
- The word indigo is from the Greek, meaning “from India.”
- Indigo is insoluble, color-fast and can last for centuries – even millennia!
- Indigo comes from the plants of the genus indigofera. The leaves are fermented in a steeping vat, and the liquid that’s collected is extracted and oxidized. The blue solid that remains is collected and dried. A dirty and smelly process that sounds like both art and science.
- It is said that African slaves brought the knowledge of indigo cultivation to the New World. (Or more likely, there is no documentation of slaves bringing the technical know-how of indigo cultivation and production to the New World.)
- In 1775 South Carolina exported 1.1 million pounds of indigo – over a third of the colony’s income.
- Indigo was an extremely valuable commodity. Catherine McKinley’s book, Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World, tells us that at the time of the American Revolution indigo cakes were used as currency as the dollar had no strength.
Today we think of denim apparel as “work clothes” — rough and tumble, casual and broken-in. Nothing is as quintessential in American fashion. I have a vintage denim jacket from 1984 that despite its funky “Members Only” vibe I still wear. I can’t get rid of it now, and I’m guessing you have at least one pair of favorite jeans that evoke such strong feelings you couldn’t get rid of them either.