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Food [Waste] for Thought

Revitalising the practice of natural dyeing with a modern approach, Dyeluxe began as a colour research project in 2018 for Nikolett Madai’s Master’s Thesis at Akademie Mode & Design in Berlin. 


Motivated to address circularity gaps in both the food and fashion industry as well as the toxic impact of synthetic dyes on society and the environment, Nikolett developed a grave-to-cradle methodology to extract pigments from by-product waste within the food industry. 


Photo credit – Nikolett Madai Studio

Winner of the 2019 Green Concept ‘Fashion Changer’ Award and announced semi-finalist of the 2020 European Social Innovation Competition: Reimagine Fashion, which aims to recognise disruptive ideas that support positive environmental and social development within the European market. 


In conversation with Nikolett, we learnt about her colour journey, industry partnerships and possibilities for the future of Dyeluxe. 

As an undergraduate student studying design and business in Copenhagen, Nikolett took part in the two-year Youth Fashion Summit program, working closely with Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing. This experience combined with her design education and passion for colours influenced Nikolett to continue her studies and develop a thesis project around textile colouration and sustainability. 


“I wanted to take this to a further level when I started my masters here in Berlin, ‘Sustainability in Fashion’. Where I discovered all these beautiful colours have a negative aspect. Two of my favourite colours were red and turquoise, and they’re some of the most toxic colours to produce. That really motivated me to look into how colours are created.” 


Photo credit – Nikolett Madai Studio


Photo credit – Nikolett Madai Studio

“Whilst I was doing my research, I found circularity always stopped at the dyeing phase”.  

Approaching this issue, Nikolett developed a new circularity model combining both the food and fashion industry “the grave-to-cradle model is a link to how to close circularity gaps, in terms of two industries and connecting them together”. 


Photo credit – Nikolett Madai Studio

To visually communicate her thesis concept Nikolett created a capsule collection using materials sourced exclusively from by-products. 


“I was really focused on by-production and the importance of it, as its kind of like a hidden resource.” 


Through a partnership with cold-pressed juice company bJuice Berlin, Nikolett received their turmeric peel waste to begin her research experimenting with pigment extraction. Impressed with the results and the innovative process making use of their waste, bJuice showcased Dyeluxe through an instore exhibition.  


Photo credit – Nikolett Madai Studio

Considering profit as well as the influence on people and the planet within the grave-to-cradle structure, Nikolett identifies by-products as an often-over-looked revenue stream. 

“Fruits and vegetables are grown for their primary function to be edible, but then you have peels and seeds that are remaining from the by-products. If there is a function for it, then there is a secondary user and secondary purchase”. 


When it comes to dyeing with food by-products certain peels, skins, seeds and stalks contain natural tannins which aid colour fastening to textiles. Tannins, however, are not present in turmeric, to supplement this Nikolett “paired it up with pomegranate peels because they have tannins in themselves which can fix the colour inside the textiles”. 


To align with the by-product dyeing process, Nikolett chose natural textile fibre Piña, a sheer material made from the leaves of pineapple plants, grown primarily for their fruits in the Philippines. As well as choosing buttons made from coconut shells.  

“If you have your textiles, dyes and trimmings all coming from by-products, you’re not using any extra land to cultivate, you’re sharing it”. 


Photo credit – Nikolett Madai Studio

The advancement of synthetic dyes over the past century has provided the industry with an affordable, consistent and accessible range of colours. However, the negative impact of these synthetic dyes on the environment, biodiversity and human life when released into our waterways has seen devastating results. Since the call to action by Greenpeace in 2011 through the Detox My Fashion campaign which challenged members of the fashion industry to stop polluting waterways, progress has been made but there is still a long way to go.

As well as considering the health effects on garment workers and communities living alongside polluted waterways, the influence of Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing lead Nikolett to be mindful of “what about the person that is wearing it the longest, the end consumer… we should consider it as our second skin, we are always in contact with clothing, we sweat in and breathe in it” making wellness a vital part of the entire lifecycle was important for Dyeluxe.

“what about the person that is wearing it the longest, the end consumer… we should consider it as our second skin, we are always in contact with clothing, we sweat in and breathe in it”

Nikolett acknowledges there are limitations with natural dyeing, “some colours I won’t be able to get so easily, I think the biggest range is yellows and browns” however, “if I pair it up with Brazilian Logwood purple or take natural Indigo for instance and mix it up with the turmeric yellow I can get green. Colour science still works in favour”. To do most of the testing, GOTS certified organic cotton was used as it has a similar cellulose base to the piña fibre.

Following turmeric, Nikolett examined avocado seeds and peels sourced from her own kitchen waste which she discovered offer different shades of pink.  


The natural dyes developed by Dyeluxe also inspire a range of possibilities outside of textiles, which was first discovered through a collaboration with Carolyn Raff, a textile and material researcher and designer exploring bio-based compostable sequins made from algae. 


Carolyn’s algae sequins were coloured using the by-product pigment residue following Dyeluxes dyeing process. Finding a third use for what was initially considered waste. 


Photo credit – Nikolett Madai Studio, Carolyn Raff 

Caroyn Raff - RawAssembly Oct

Photo credit – Carolyn Raff 

Nikolett described “I have been working with Carolyn for the last half-year, and we have managed to create a closed-loop production together, where she takes the dye leftover bath that I have. After I create a garment and it is dyed, there is 20% that doesn’t take in the pigment, but it’s enough pigment to colour these sequins.” 


A garment was created to showcase their collaboration, titled The Golden Phoenix as a representation of returning to the earth after rising from the ashes – a circular lifecycle. 


Photo credit – Nikolett Madai Studio, Carolyn Raff 


Photo credit – Nikolett Madai Studio, Carolyn Raff | Model – Gabriela Hinkova 

Made from peace silk, a natural golden colour was achieved using Dyeluxes turmeric and pomegranate dye, with the excess pigment used to colour Carolyn’s biopolymer sequins which were featured in layers imitating phoenix feathers around the hem of the dress. 

The Golden Phoenix garment was exhibited at the Green Product Awards Fashion Day, showcasing both Nikolett and Carolyn’s innovations.

In September 2019, Dyeluxe was featured in the sustainable innovations section of Munich Fabric Start, exhibiting both the turmeric and avocado dyes and the different shades they can achieve.  

Nikolett Madai.jpg

Photo credit – RawAssembly | Nikolett Madai Studio's work

Photo credit – Nikolett Madai.jpg
Nikolett Madai .jpg
Nikolett Madai.jpg

Photo credits – RawAssembly | Nikolett Madai Studio's work

“The interest was really impressive from industry specialists, they said they’re open to new processes. They are dealing with natural dyeing already but they are also looking into new innovations that make them better.” For an industry responsible for around 20% of the world's wastewater through textile dyeing and treatment processes1, this is an indication of the need for systematic change within the industry towards regenerative practices. 


It was through the Munich Fabric Start event that Nikolett connected with Julia Kaleta, another exhibitor exploring textile colouration. Julia is “working with different artists to showcase alternative dyes towards synthetics” displayed in what she has titled the ‘Atlas of Sustainable Colour’. 


It is an on-going project with the first ten copies of the Atlas exhibited at Munich Fabric Start, showcasing samples from multiple natural dye researchers and developers such as Living Colour, a bio-design research project exploring the use of bacteria that produce pigments. 

photo credit - Julia Kaleta

Photo credit – Julia Kaleta


Photo credit – Living Colour

Having included Dyeluxes turmeric samples, Nikolett shared “I was very happy to be a part of the Atlas and bring in a new perspective with the by-product dyes.” 


Looking to the future for Dyeluxe, Nikolett aims to take her research and dye development further, with the possibility of scaling up and taking on partnerships to explore a diverse range of end-uses not exclusive to textiles. 

“My ultimate goal is not to become the dye house itself because there are so many innovations happening and so many more fields that I don’t want to limit and take away the possibilities of other industries to implement the technology”. 

References/ notes

To see more of Nikolett’s work with Dyeluxe go to:
Website -
Instagram - @dyeluxe
Twitter - @dyeluxe
Facebook – Dyeluxe

To see more of Carolyn Raff’s bio-based sequins go to:
Instagram - @an_ocean_full_of_opportunities 

Feature on RawAssembly -
Etsy Store -

To see Julia Kaleta’s work with The Atlas of Sustainable Colour go to: 

Website -
Instagram - @atlasofsustainable 



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