Silk, that luxe natural fabric that hangs on your body oh so well and is a god-send when the thermostat rises. It’s little wonder the phrase ‘silky smooth’ is used so freely. But, ever wondered how this delicate material comes into existence?
A favourite amongst luxury and high-end designers, silk is celebrated for its ability to drape as well as its breathability and thermal properties that helps balance body temperature. A nice added extra, silk is naturally hypoallergenic, and is resistant to dust mites and mold. And despite what some may tell you, silk does not require dry cleaning only and can easily be hand-washed. It’s delicate but you you’ve got the softest touch. Right?
Image courtesy: The Ethical Silk Company, using Peace Silk
Traditional Silk Vs. Peace Silk
The traditional process of silk production involves boiling the intact cocoons of silk worms and unwinding the silk strand. This is done so that the silk fibres don’t break. However, that means that the silkworm dies in the process. This type of silk is produced from Bombyx mori silkworms that eat exclusively mulberry leaves. Researchers are working on finding other methods to extract silk from cocoons without harming the worm.
Peace silk, also known as ‘Eri’ or ‘Ahimsa’ silk is a process that allows the silkworm to emerge from their cocoon and complete their natural life cycle. The empty cocoons are then used to produce silk and thus makes Peace silk vegan. Eri silk-worms or Samia Cynthia worms feed off castor leaves.
Both types of silk production are considered to be sustainable thanks to their very low water footprint, produce almost zero waste and are biodegradable (within a couple of years compared to hundreds of years for synthetic materials). Not only this but when biodegrading, silk does not emit toxins, unlike synthetics.
So What’s Organic Silk?
Similarly to organic farming, organic silk production means that no nasty chemicals, pesticides, insecticides or synthetic additives (often used by some silk suppliers to provide additional softness to their silk fabrics) have been used in the production of the silk fibre and in producing the finished cloth. In fact, organic silk is most often produced in small villages by indigenous people and is the choice for the purest silk.
Organic silk farming has far reaching effects, in particular it promotes the sustainability of mulberry trees, which are the silkworms food source.
The challenge here, however, is that there are very few, if any, governmental bodies that regulate whether or not a piece of silk is labeled “certified organic”. The main issue that causes concern in determining if silk is organic is the dyeing processes. Some producers use environmentally friendly non-natural dyes that are claimed to be “organic.” The real deal is when the silk organic fabric is also handwoven and hand-dyed using natural dyes, as well as the mulberry trees they feed on are grown organically, without pesticides or fertilisers.
When it comes to silk production, it’s clear there are some tricky issues at play from the way in which it’s produced to how it’s designed and sold. That said, silk is undeniably a very sustainable, eco-friendly natural fibre with outstanding properties. So next time you’re looking for the softest touch, now you know to turn to silk.