“I dye every sample by hand, with some pieces taking days to complete… the end result is always something beautiful and unexpected.”
Hydro Lava founder and Eora-based designer Ebony Rose created her most popular piece by mistake. Working through the process of hand-dying and upcycling a discarded pair of jeans, she bleached dark denim to reveal a vibrant red hue underneath. While it wasn’ t the intended result, Ebony worked with it – unintentionally creating her label’s signature Lava Denim.
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From there, Ebony built the Hydro Lava label around the concept of destroying recycled denim and transforming it into something new. Inspired by rap culture, the rave scene and Sydney’s creative community, Hydro Lava has evolved into something unexpectedly beautiful. Below, Ebony shares her journey in getting her label off the ground.
Tell us about you. What’s your fashion background?
I’m a designer. I never studied fashion but I’ve worked for other labels doing various creative roles. I’ve worked as both a fashion photographer and graphic designer. I needed a personal creative outlet, so I started making jeans.
How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.
I’d come across discontinued jeans that were piling up in a warehouse and I started experimenting with them. The denim [process] is a very intimate thing. I dye every sample by hand, with some pieces taking days to complete. Each piece involves a lot of trial and error, but the end result is always something beautiful and unexpected.
The nature of this dying process means a lot of styles can’t be recreated. Each style is completely unique, with sustainability being the driving force behind the brand. Even our T-shirts are [made from] recycled vintage tees, so each shirt is really special. The cut and quality of the vintage tees are hard to replicate.
What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?
Hydro Lava started as a side project to give new life to discarded garments. Since then, we’ve really been able to create our own Hydro Lava universe with its own ecosystem. I say ‘we’ because the brand really relies on community. Everything is made locally in Sydney and most of my collaborators are women, POC and queer people in my community. The Hydro Lava pop-ups and our nightclub events are creating space for these people. I’m really trying to evolve the brand beyond just clothing … [I want it to be] more of a platform for artists.
How would you describe Hydro Lava to someone who’s never seen it before?
I would describe Hydro Lava as a mix of streetwear with a nightclub, rave feel. It’s a very experimental, DIY aesthetic as we mostly destroy old garments in order to create something new!
Where did the name come from?
My boyfriend at the time came up with the name and I was like, ‘I need that’. He gave it to me to start my label. It has so many meanings. which is why I love it, but my favourite is the Chief Keef reference. I reference music a lot in my designs. On my Instagram, you’ll find a lot of rap-inspired T-shirts… from Eve’s paw print tattoos to ‘Free YSL’ tees.
What are you most proud of in your work on your label?
I’m really proud of our latest campaign. We released a short film to launch the collection directed by Anabel Burrows and starring Atoug Deng as she rides her motorbike around Sydney. I love the storytelling of this campaign. As she rides towards the ocean, she transforms into this alien demon. It’s really special.
I’m also super proud of some of my dye techniques. One of my most popular styles is a flame tie-dye design which I created by mistake. I was trying to bleach dark blue denim to white and the colour underneath was red. I was super pissed at the time that I ruined the jeans I was trying to dye, but [they] ended up being my most popular style.
What do you wish you knew when you started?
How hard it was going to be. I’ve had so many obstacles behind the scenes.
Dream local collaborators?
I’m super lucky that I’ve been able to work with most of my dream local collaborators. My favourite rapper @itsmulalo has been a huge supporter of my designs which is a dream come true. I would love to make her artist merch.
Who is in your wardrobe right now?
All vintage pieces. I spend hours browsing reselling sites for pieces for my personal wardrobe. I also love Sydney stores @rtts.land and @distalphalanx.
How can we buy one of your pieces?
Through our website. Also, follow @hydro__lava on Instagram to keep up to date with our events and pop-ups.
Browse the Hydro Lava collection here.