An extravagant scarf made of silk is the symbol of refined elegance and can elevate any look to Parisienne chic. You can play with the colours tie it a million ways around your neck and shoulders or just wrap it around the handle of your handbag. It can add an extra feminine texture to the otherwise masculine or basic outfit. A true investment piece that should be treated as such. I have to admit that I used to love the luxurious touch of it but then I learned about how it is produced..
The dark side of silk
Silk is made out of the fibre that is produced by worms to make cocoons that was no surprise. However the process of harvesting the silk from the cocoon involves killing the larvae by boiling or gassing them. To make things even worse, studies shows that worms actually produce endorphin and they can feel pain. Approximately 3000 worms are needed to produce one pound of silk. To deal with such amounts of worms is also a labour intensive process in countries where workforce has a low cost. Dealing with worms requires very basic skills which might enable the use of child labour. According to a report published by the Human Rights Watch in India thousands of children from as young as the age of 5 work 12 hours in unbearable conditions to produce silk. Furthermore, the majority of silk is produced in Asia or India so it is not really a local product in Europe or the US which results in a very large carbon footprint due to the transportation.
It is clearly not something I can support no matter how much I love the fabric, so I started to look for alternatives.
Polyester and nylon
Most fast fashion companies use polyester and nylon instead of silk. Although it is true that it doesn’t involve animal torture but they are produced from mineral oils that takes a huge toll on the environment and a lifetime to decompose not to mention uncomfortable to wear.
Milkweed seed pod
Other sources listed milkweed seed pod fibers also called as the Silk of America as a silk alternative. It is mainly farmed in Canada. Asclepias species produce their seeds in follicles. The seeds bear a cluster of white, silky, filament-like hairs known as the floss. It is mainly used as stuffing in pillows, insulation and latex for technical clothes.
Is very popular nowadays due to the versatile use of it. Rayon is a manufactured cellulose fibre so it is considered semi-synthetic. Rayon is a versatile fibre and has the same comfort properties as natural fibres, although the drape and slipperiness of rayon textiles are often more like nylon. It can imitate the feel and texture of silk, wool, cotton and linen. The fibres are easily dyed in a wide range of colours. Rayon fabrics are soft, smooth, cool, comfortable, and highly absorbent. Sometimes variations of it are called modal. Sometimes fabrics made from rayon are referred to as ‘’from bamboo’’
Unfortunately although it sounds like a great alternative it still has its dark sides. During the process the fabric is treated with a poisonous chemical (carbon disulphide) that could potentially harm factory workers. Although rayon is found more biodegradable than cotton, it can poison Silverfish who can eat the fibres. Moreover a study showed that 57% of the fibres found in deep sea waters were rayon. Rayon production although better than some other materials still generates a considerable amount of pollution.
Non-violent silk: ahimsa silk
Ahimsa in sanskrit means non-violent. With this process the pupa is allowed to leave the cocoon and silk is gathered without harming the worm. However creating Ahimsa silk requires 10 extra days in the process which makes it twice as more expensive as traditional silk. Still it is gaining popularity and was seen in 2010 in the Oscars Gala by Susy Amis Cameron.
What can you do?
The choice is yours. You can:
- Elliminate and sort of silk from your wardrobe.
- Choose a more ethical alternative.
- and/or support organisations in their fight for these animals like PETA.
Even if you do choose to buy silk in the future please keep in mind that the external costs of the production of that garment and treat it accordingly.
Or support organisations in their fight for these animals like PETA.