Reuse, Recycle: Emily Dawn Long’s Zero-Trace Tie Dye

Creigh Lyndon
India Hendrikse

Like the carefree splashes of colour a child adds to paper on their first day of school, there’s something endearingly naive about Emily Dawn Long’s hand-dying techniques. With the colour palette of a Wes Anderson fruit bowl – muted peaches, lilacs and mustard yellows – the New York City designer’s clothing line is an ode to nature. A zero-waste approach sees leftovers from dinners with friends bust a new lease on life, being used to tie dye a collection of clothes that seem reminiscent of an off-duty Lady Diana (but on acid). Flowers, swirls and criss-cross patterns – all tie dyed – are plastered across bike shorts, loose cotton shirts, bucket hats and tote bags; a cohesive hotchpotch of 80s dreams. Here, Emily delves into her creative process, and how each drop of clothing comes about.

PP: Tell us a little bit about what you do.
EDL: Oh, man. The bigger question is what do I not do. I have a lot of ideas! Right now, I’m enjoying exploring those in multiple facets. I’ve touched many versions of the fashion industry and I’m taking that experience and running with it.
PP: What did you want to be when you were little?
EDL: I just wanted to use my hands to make things, and always be learning. Both of which I still do.
PP: What are your favourite things about living in New York City?
EDL: I really love my neighbours in my building in Chinatown. They have lived here a lot longer than me, and I love making them smile with my gnarly tie-dyed hands and studio in the back. Plus, almost all of my friends live or work in the area, so I get a minimum of two random buzzes a day from friendly faces.
PP: Can you tell us about one of your professional goals for the year?
EDL: Seeing friends, peers and your community wearing your brand and pieces is a pretty rad goal in my book.
PP: Your tie dye pieces are amazing. Can you talk us through the technique?
EDL: I studied textile development as well as design during my undergrad and quickly picked up a hand for dyeing. It is very much a trial and error process, as well as a bit of technique. But each time I set up for a new “drop”, I try something new.
I won’t disclose all of my secrets, but my favourite dyes right now are my saffron, red cabbage, and avocado pit dyes. Red cabbage gives you this beautiful muted blue denim colour, almost periwinkle. Avocado pits give you a light dusty pink tone, and the saffron gives you this beautiful mango, [Simon Porte] Jacquemus orange colour.
PP: Tell us about how you style your own pieces?
EDL: I mix them into my own wardrobe rather frequently now, sorry not sorry! I’ll do a tank with a vintage skirt and sneakers or a vintage men’s button-down with one of my skirts. Or, I’ll throw in one of my bags and a pair of socks with sandals and I’m good to go.
PP: Do you do a lot of commissions for friends?
EDL: I do! That’s sorta how this started. I figured if we were into it, then why not make a few more. All of my pieces are one-of-a kind or made to order.
PP: Tell us about a book you’re loving right now.
EDL: My book club chose In Watermelon Sugar [by Richard Brautigan] this past spring (shout out book club crew), and I thought it was such a joyous and weirdly beautiful book. Separately, I always recommend Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black by Cookie Mueller.

“I just wanted to use my hands to make things, and always be learning.”