Hydro Lava destroys old clothes to create unique pieces

“I dye each swatch by hand, with some pieces taking days to complete…the end result is always something beautiful and unexpected.”

Hydro Lava Eora-based founder and designer Ebony Rose mistakenly created her most popular piece. Working through the process of hand-dying and recycling a discarded pair of jeans, she bleached dark denim to reveal a vibrant red hue underneath. Although not the intended result, Ebony worked with it – unwittingly creating her brand’s signature lava denim.

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From there, Ebony built the Hydro Lava label around the concept of destroying recycled denim and turning it into something new. Inspired by Sydney’s rap culture, rave scene and creative community, Hydro Lava evolved into something unexpectedly beautiful. Below, Ebony shares her journey to getting her brand off the ground.

Tell us about you. What is your background in fashion?

I am a designer. I never studied fashion but worked for other labels in various creative roles. I have worked as both a fashion photographer and a graphic designer. I needed a personal creative outlet, so I started making jeans.

How did the label start? Tell us about the process and the challenges.

I had come across some discontinued jeans piling up in a warehouse and started experimenting with them. Jeans [process] is something very intimate. I dye each swatch 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 death process means that many styles cannot be recreated. Each style is completely unique, with sustainability being the brand’s driving force. Even our T-shirts are [made from] recycled vintage t-shirts, so each shirt is truly special. The fit and quality of vintage t-shirts are hard to replicate.

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has that evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?

Hydro Lava started as a side project to give discarded clothes new life. Since then, we have really been able to create our own Hydro Lava universe with its own ecosystem. I say “we” because the brand is really about the community.

Everything is made locally in Sydney and most of my staff are women, POC and queer people from my community. Hydro Lava pop-ups and our nightclub events create space for these people. I’m really trying to evolve the brand beyond the clothes… [I want it to be] rather a platform for artists.

How would you describe Hydro Lava to someone who has never seen it before?

I would describe Hydro Lava as a mix of streetwear with a nightclub, rave vibe. It is a very experimental and DIY aesthetics because we mainly destroy old clothes to create something new!

Where does the name come from?

My boyfriend at the time came up with the name and I was like, “I need this.” He gave it to me to launch my label. It has so many meanings. that’s why I love it, but my favorite is the Chief Keef reference.

I make a lot of reference to music in my creations. On my Instagram, you’ll find plenty of rap-inspired t-shirts… from Eve’s paw print tattoos to “Free YSL” your.

What are you most proud of in your work on your label?

I’m really proud of our last campaign. We have released a short film to launch the collection directed by Anabel Burrows and featuring 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 dyeing techniques. One of my most popular styles is a flame tie dye design that I created by mistake. I was trying to bleach the dark blue denim to white and the color underneath was red. I was super pissed when I messed up the jeans I was trying to dye, but [they] ended up being my most popular style.

What did you wish you had known when you started?

How hard that was going to be. I had so many obstacles behind the scenes.

Dream local collaborators?

I am very lucky to have been able to work with most of the local collaborators of my dreams. my favorite rapper @itsmulalo has been a huge supporter of my designs which is a dream come true. I would love to do his artist merch.

Who’s in your wardrobe right now?

All vintage pieces. I spend hours browsing sites reselling pieces for my personal wardrobe. I also like the shops in Sydney @rtts.land and @distalphalanx.

How can we buy one of your parts?

Through our website. Also, follow @hydro__lava on Instagram to keep you up to date with our events and pop-ups.

Browse the Hydro Lava collection here.

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