Did you know hemp fibres make an incredible clothing material? Super durable, absorbent, and softening with wear, hemp clothing has many benefits and has been utilised as a material for thousands of years. We caught up with Sofia Tomkins, the founder of the eco-conscious clothing label, ‘Lilla by Fia’. Sofia creates beautiful pieces using a blend of organic cotton and hemp which she then colours using natural dyes.
What inspired you to start Lilla by Fia?
I visited a small village in Thailand named Pai where I learnt to dye with rocks and other various foliage. I was fascinated with the process and wanted to learn more.
I had already dabbled and experimented with natural dyes previously but I didn’t really know what I was doing. The trip made me realise I wanted to create my own label focusing on ethical and conscious fashion. I then began experimenting with all sorts of dyes from coffee, tea, turmeric and rock just to name a few and that’s when I fell in love with avocado seeds.
What made you decide to use Hemp as a primary material in your clothing?
As you know, hemp is the most sustainable fibre. The fibre is durable, absorbent and softens with wear. The fibre requires little water, limited pesticide and herbicides, and grows at a fast rate. Organic cotton is woven with hemp for a more comfortable and gentle feel. I wanted to create a label that gives back to Mother Nature.
How do you find working with hemp as a clothing material?
Hemp is a wonderful fibre to work with. The fibre is not only great to sew but it takes on the colour really well. The avocado seeds produce a soft dusty pink whereas the lentil dye is a soft plum shade. Both are similar in colour but have slight variations.
What are the advantages of using natural dyes and do you have any favourite natural products you use to produce the dyes?
This season for Autumn/Winter 2018 I am dying with lentils. Lentils produce a soft plum shade when used as a natural dye. I have used avocado seeds in previous collections as well. Both lentils and avocado seeds are a by-product which creates zero waste in the dye process. The benefits of natural dyeing is it won’t harm the earth and is gentle on your skin. Most conventional dyes have harsh chemicals which run off into waterways contaminating drinking water and oceans. I dye the garments in batches on a small scale and use the dye bath once I have used the colour to water the garden.
“As you know, hemp is the most sustainable fibre. The fibre is durable, absorbent and softens with wear. The fibre requires little water, limited pesticide and herbicides, and grows at a fast rate.”
Are there any downsides to using organic materials and dyes in your process?
Natural dyeing is a slow process and requires constant attention. I soak the lentils and heat the dye bath until it reaches boiling point. I then let the dye bath cool and submerge the garments which are soaked overnight and hung on the line to dry. The entire process takes 3 – 4 days that’s just dyeing alone. This doesn’t include cutting, sewing and finishing each garment. The entire process is long, the natural dye will never produce the same colour so every batch is unique. That’s why we love it.
Lilla by Fia currently only produces clothes for women, do you plan on producing clothing for men at any stage?
I’m focusing on women’s clothing at the moment but I have made a unisex t-shirt in the past. I would like to make menswear but it’s just finding the time.
What does 2018 have in store for Lilla by Fia?
I want to focus on stocking Lilla garments in stores across Australia. That’s the plan for now but who knows what the future may hold. Most of all I want to keep doing what I love.
Follow Lilla by Fia
To keep track of what beautiful pieces Sophia is creating check out the links below!