About Esme

Version 2

About Esme

Working professionally with textiles for the last 33 years, I started my career as a fashion designer in Toronto, selling collections under my own label, “Esme Designs.” I then co-founded a fashion boutique called “Esme & Nolan.” In 1992 I followed my dream to live and work in India, followed by Bangladesh, and then Singapore, a journey of 19 years in Asia. I’ve had wonderful enriching experiences researching Asian natural dye traditions. These experiences led me to design naturally dyed handloom silks, shawls and silk hemp textiles, working with weavers in Bangladesh and Thailand; these collections were sold internationally. Since 2002 I have focused on researching tropical and temperate climate natural dyes and collecting information on 600 natural dye plants and trees. Traveling extensively in past decades, I have met with natural dyers in remote villages in over a dozen countries to study and understand how ancient dye practices have evolved over centuries. I have created dye gardens in Singapore, Thailand and Canada growing over 90 different kinds of dye trees and plants and in the process have formulated over 800 natural dye recipes, all tested for light and wash fastness, without the use of toxic additives. This research is presently being compiled into a two volume book series.

Esme’s Collections

Naturally Dyed Silk & Hemp    

1996 – 2005

  • Hand Woven Silk Textiles – 20 designs in 250 colour samples
  • Hand Woven Silk/Hemp Textiles – 4 designs in 6 colour samples
  • Hand Woven Silk Shawls – 8 designs in 47 colours
  • Hand Woven Silk Quilts & Pillows – 3 designs in 4 colours

2010 – 2015       Silk Chiffon Block Resist Shawls

2013 – present       Silk Prints


1987 – 1992      Wedding Dresses & Evening Wear

1986       Beadwork Evening Wear

1983 – 1992       Suits


1983 – 1992

  • Suits
  • Winter Coats
  • Hand knit Sweaters

1988 – 1992       Hand Woven Sweaters & Coats co-designed with Textile designer Suzanne Squires


1979 – 1980        Hand Woven Jackets

1980 – 1992        Suits

1986         Machine Knit Sweaters


1982 – 1992

  • Coats & Jackets using wrinkled nylon & high gloss cotton
  • Quilted Rainwear Coats

Synthetic Fur     

1987 – 1992

  • Coats
  • Jackets

ESME DESIGNS 1979 – 1992


  • The Explorer’s Club, Salt Spring Island, Canada – Searching for Ancient Dyes of Asia
  • Royal Siam Society, Bangkok, Thailand – Natural Dyes for Contemporary Textiles
  • Asian Civilization Museum, Singapore – The History of Red & Blue Natural Dyes
  • Singapore Botanical Garden, Singapore – The History of Red & Blue Natural Dyes
  • Antiques, Art & Culture and the American Club, Singapore – Introduction to Natural Dyes
  • University of Asia & the Pacific, Manila, Philippines – Natural Dyes
  • How They Can Create a Unique & Vibrant Philippine Fashion Industry
  • Friends of the Museums Singapore – An Introduction, Dye Demonstration & Plant Tour of naturally fermented Indigo’s from around Asia

Consultation Client List


Carma Viva, Barcelona, Spain & Manila, Philippines

Naturally Dyed Abaca Yarn Collection

  • Developed and tested for colourfastness 50 new Esme Living Colour dye recipes using indigenous Philippine dye materials
  • Supplied detailed information on how to prepare and dye with each recipe
  • Gave follow up support concerning natural dye procedures

2008 – 2009

Kelly Reedy, Mix Media Artist, Singapore

Dyed Linen, Cotton & Abaca Fabrics Using Naturally Fermented Indigo

  • Instructed how to cultivate four different types of indigo plants
  • Taught how to make indigo pigment from fresh indigo leaves for dyeing and painting
  • Taught how to start and maintain a natural fermented indigo dye bath for dyeing fabrics made from natural fibres


Naruse Kiyoshi, Greenman’s Banana Paper, Bali, Indonesia

Naturally Dyed Banana Paper Pulp

  • Developed and tested for colour fastness 6 natural dye recipes using indigenous Indonesian dye materials
  • Supplied detailed information on how to dye banana paper pulp with each recipe


Susan Tereba, World on a String, Jewelry Designer, Bali, Indonesia

Naturally Dyed Mammoth Tooth Beads

  • Developed natural dye recipes for a full colour spectrum, including red, blue, black, yellow, green & brown.
  • Supplied detailed information on how to dye mammoth tooth beads with each recipe


Threads of Life, Bali, Indonesia

Naturally Dyed Wool Yarn

  • Developed natural dye recipes to ascertain what amount of Symplocos sp. dried leaves are needed as a mordant on 100% wool yarn to produce rich and vibrant colours with Rubia cordifolia dried ground roots.
  • Developed natural dye recipes to ascertain what amount of the alum mordant (potassium aluminum sulphate) is needed to produce rich and vibrant colours with Rubia cordifolia dried roots. The yarn pre-mordanted with Symplocos sp. dried leaves and the yarn pre-mordanted with alum were then compared to see which gave the most vibrant colours.
  • Produced 17 colour samples that were all tested for light and wash fastness
  • Supplied detailed information on how to dye wool yarn with each colour recipe

Esme Living Colour website photographs were taken by:

  • Esme Hedrick-Wong
  • Martin Reeves
  • Dianna Last
  • Will Santillo
  • Yayoi Yasmine Hamazaki