©Melissa Nelson

©Melissa Nelson

Who are you? 
I’m Cara Piazza, a natural dyer and artisan based in New York City.  I have a small scale dye house and create color from plant and animal based dyes, working with alchemical dye sessions and a variety of surface techniques. I teach classes on natural dyeing and believe that through sharing craft we can help heal and create sustainable solutions for our communities. 

How did you first start to work in fashion and how did that interest bleed on natural dyes?
When I was younger I had wanted to work in fashion, and went to college for textile design in London. I was disillusioned with the toxicity of the fashion industry, both mental and physically for the environment. When I found natural dyes in college, I became almost instantly hooked on the medium. Almost obsessed. I dedicated my thesis to them and haven’t looked back since. 

What is your favorite dye to use and what is one that you have never used before that you want to experiment with soon? 
I don’t have a favorite really, it’s almost like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. I love working with the discards from the farms I partner with and am currently experimenting with chamomile. I have had a very abstract and vibrant past few years and am finding playing with more subtle whispers of colors very soothing and inspiring. 

Do you also design clothes or do you only dye clothing by artists and designers? 
I did have a brand Calyx but now I am focusing predominantly on my dye house. The truth is if we truly want to create sustainable alternatives , having my own label isn’t going to cut it. No new things  need to be made. We need to create solutions that promote up-cycling and diverting the current toxic systems in place. 

What was your favorite project you ever worked on? 
So so hard to choose! But I am most proud of working with NI EN MORE. NI EN MORE is a non-profit social innovation project and clothing brand that merges political activism, fashion and art.
Their mission is to create a sustainable, impactful business that will empower women in Ciudad Juárez.  I’ve taught them natural dyeing to help empower their fashion label and create a sustainable dye process for their work. 

Do you work alone?
I don’t , I have a team of amazing interns and an assistant. I also share studio space with great makers at Demploi Studios in Greenpoint. It takes a village.

How has your experience of gender shaped your work?
When I was designing clothes it was important to me that my pieces be worn by all gender representations. Although the garments may typically be seen as “femme” ,  I want all bodies to feel confident and comfortable in my clothing. Gender in nature is flexible and fluid, most flowers actually contain more than one sex at a time, this notion is what Calyx embodies. A Calyx is the part of the flower that holds it all the petals together.

Follow Cara’s work here.

©Melissa Nelson

©Melissa Nelson