Fashion Designer Uses Plant-Based Dyes to Make Beautiful Zero Waste Clothes

Miranda Bennett of Austin, TX, shows how slow and sustainable fashion can be.

Miranda Bennett Studio dresses

Miranda Bennett Studio

Miranda Bennett is a designer from Austin, Texas, who is on the cutting edge of slow and sustainable fashion. While other brands may pick a single aspect of sustainability and try to create a name for itself based on that one point, the Miranda Bennett Studio (MBS) strives to do it all—and do it well. 

Its most standout practice is the use of non-toxic plant-based dyes. All dyes are formulated and applied in-house in Austin, which is highly unusual since dyeing for most fashion labels happens overseas.

Bennett, who used to work in fashion in New York City, tells Treehugger over email: "I found plant dyes as an antidote to fashion fatigue. After years of working in the industry and feeling like I had lost the plot a bit in keeping up with the breakneck pace and built-in obsolescence of seasonal collections, working in this medium woke my heart and curiosity back up. 

"Plant dyes offer an opportunity to reconnect with the earth and with process, avoid the use of toxic substances, source dyes in an array of meaningful ways, offer compelling small-batch colors unique to our collection, and imbue our garments with greater meaning for the wearer through the countless hours of work poured into each one."

MBS dress

Miranda Bennett Studio

The company has had a zero waste policy in place since 2016, which diverts 100% of textile remnants from landfills. Bennett explained that this ambitious initiative has several components. First, any material left over from cutting apparel for manufacture (which happens every week) is collected. Once sorted, it's stored by color, size, fabric content, and quality. Next, new products are designed based on the available fabric dimensions.

"The resulting products are a compelling array of accessories, kiddo apparel, and the burgeoning MBS Home Collection. Any textile remnants that cannot be utilized in the creation of these new products are recycled into utility rags by Austin-based Josco Products or donated to the Austin Area Quilt Guild. The AAQG donates quilts to Safe Place, an Austin Shelter for battered women and children, as well as other charitable causes."

These clothes are not cheap. When asked about the price point, which may strike some shoppers as exorbitantly high (tops start at $168, with some dresses as much as $468), Bennett pointed out that fast fashion has unfortunately conditioned us to think that clothes should cost very little. This, however, has other ugly, hidden costs associated with it.

"The truth is that the numeric value of those [fast fashion] price points often deny the basic value of the people who make them and the planet that [provides] resources. If a garment costs $20, on the other side of its life cycle is likely a garment worker (the majority of whom are women) paid mere cents and fabrics that cause real harm to the planet in both their manufacture and their disposal."

MBS' prices reflect its local team of employees that are treated well and compensated in US currency, with full-time members receiving benefits. Its environmental practices add further to the cost: "The plant dyeing process, one we are deeply committed to, adds significant expense, but is money well spent when one considers all of the chemicals it allows us to keep off bodies and out of waterways. We only use premium fabrics from natural sources, allowing us to keep microplastics out of the ocean and provide our customer with comfort and luxury while wearing our apparel."

Perhaps most importantly, the clothes are not designed around trends, but rather are "meant to journey with the wearer season after season." This has the long-term benefit of "ultimately lowering the cost per wear to well below that of fast fashion items that are worn only a few times before ultimately ending up in landfills."

Bennett's beautiful clothes are proof that fashion can be a force for good when the proper principles are adopted and applied with care. Of course, this requires a significant shift in mindset for shoppers to start viewing the clothes they buy as a long-term investment, rather than disposable accessories, but it appears that more people are moving in that direction.