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France / Paris

Natural dye workshop at the Opéra Comique

Transmitting creative, ecological skills

The costume studio at Paris’s Opéra Comique is embracing natural dyeing techniques as part of a commitment to sustainable development. The initiative highlights the role of artisan skills in the theatre arts, promoting enhanced creativity and originality in costume design.  

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Natural dye workshop at the Opéra Comique
© Pierre Grosbois

The Opéra Comique is one of few lyric theatres in France with its own costume workshop, committed to eco-friendly methods and techniques since 2012. Steered by costume and clothing manager Christelle Morin, the initiative reflects the broad policy of director Jérôme Deschamps. Christelle Morin has trained in the use of natural dyes, which have no harmful effects for their users or the environment, and are eco-friendly in other ways, too: the dyeing vats can be re-used.     

The dyes are obtained from plants and other natural sources:  reseda for yellow, madder for red, indigo for blue, cochineal for scarlet (made from crushed beetles), as an effective alternative to chemical dyes. Designers at the workshop were impressed by Morin’s samples: natural dyes offer ‘rich, vibrant colours and an almost infinite palette,’ she says. They are also ‘pleasant to work with, in terms of their smell, texture and feel.’ On stage, the results are plain to see: costumes for the recent show Marouf, Savetier du Caire were among the first to use natural dyes, resulting in a superb, harmonious palette, unique to the technique.

Support from the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès has been vital. Following the introduction of natural dyes at the Opéra Comique, Christelle Morin will train other costume managers at theatres throughout France, offering exciting new prospects for the Foundation’s continued support.

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Opéra comique  Place Boieldieu – 75002 Paris

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