Yam root dye creates a beautiful range of colors. Finding the elusive root, however, is a challenge…
Yam root grows wild on large tree vines which line the forest floor in jungle areas of northern Vietnam. During the dry season our team treks to these remote areas to find them. Not as difficult to forrage as truffles, per se, but yam root hunting is still arduous work, and you have to know where to look to find them.
Each root weighs between 1-2 kilograms and we typically collect between 200-500 kilograms per trek. The outside of the root is dark brown in color, gnarly in shape, and rough to touch. The inside of the tuber is as hard as the outside, like a tree root, and has a beautiful burnt ochre color.
The inside of the yam is a rich burnt ochre color. It’s then mashed into a pulp and soaked in water to create the dye pigment we use.
Because of their relatively high tannin content (6-13%) the tubers have traditionally been used for preserving nets and leather and also to color clothes. In Vietnam, the yam root was used to dye cotton peasant clothes in both the Red River and Mekong delta regions up until the mid-twentieth century. These days the yam root has mostly fallen out of favor, replaced by cheaper more accessible alternatives.
We have fallen in love with the yam root because of its versatility as a dye and its mostly forgotten history. For our textiles we apply different techniques and dye additives to create a warm and earthy spectrum of colors: from rose pink, to baked brick, to clay soil, to dark chocolate. These colors have a natural depth that balances well with different skin tones.
Vietnamese youngsters wearing yam root dyed clothes at the turn of the 19th century
Photos by Leon Busy
Kilomet109 is excited to continue to explore the fashion potential of this multi-functional root. We are reinterpreting the yam root textile, using traditional craftsmanship to create sophisticated urban street-wear and chic summer tops that can be enjoyed all over the world.