Serpent & Bow use sustainably sourced fabrics and natural dyes such as indigo to create these handcrafted textiles and fashion items that evoke mythical mer-people. Founded by Rachel Blodgett and Julian Farmar-Bowers, from Northern California, the pair studied at California College of the Arts. While Rachel studied textiles, Julian studied printmaking, and began developing this combined interest in creating beautiful, hand-painted garments that, according to them, honors nature, their source.
The brand use American-sourced cloth, or repurposed natural fabrics as the base of their designs. These are then handpainted using a combination of beeswax and paraffin to create these ethereal textures. They are then dyed using a range of materials: “Our first love is indigo dye,” said Serpent & Bow, “but we also forage for other natural dyes depending on what is available to us seasonally.” They even go so far as to forage for natural dyes such as onion skins, collected from the kitchen or after sifting through the bins at the market.
“Our choice not to use these synthetic dyes means we do not get the bright colors they can achieve,” they said about using natural dyes. “We do not see this as a compromise. We also don’t think that making fashion naturally and ethically requires compromising its sophistication. We see what we do as a refusal to compromise.”
After the dying, the hand craft continues. “We remove the wax in a pot of boiling water, then the wax cools and hardens and we are able to re-use it,” explained the duo. They ensure that every step of the process, from design, to construction, to painting, dyeing, and rinsing, is done by hand. As Rachel has a range of textile and garment-making skills, she sews most of their pieces; the designs, painting, and dyeing is a collaboration between them both.
The project initially began with the idea of creating a collective, offering textile artists an opportunity to have a platform to evolve their work. They are currently establishing a permanent base for themselves in which they can cultivate a garden and grow some of their own materials to use.