I already mentioned in the previous post that I did some research on possible alternatives and substitutes to conventional silk as part of my MA studies. This blog post will focus on peace silk, a more sustainable option than conventional silk both in terms of animal welfare and the environment.
But first of all, what exactly is wrong with conventional silk production?
Similar to other industries, there have been many attempts to optimise the silk industry in order to gain more fibre and therefore achieve higher profits. And similar to other industries, silk manufacturing has mostly been taken out of its natural context and the fibre is now often being produced on large industrial farms where the silk worms are kept indoors. In addition to that, silk cocoons are usually either boiled or dried out with the silk worm still trapped inside. This process is done to stop them from hatching naturally, consequently damaging the cocoon and breaking the filament.
Like other agricultural industries, the mulberry leaves used for silk production are also often exposed to an excessive amount of chemicals in order to gain short-term results. But even though the use of chemicals might initially lead to better results, it is damaging the quality and cocoon productivity in the long term. Furthermore, it is also quite common for hormones to be used during the production process of conventional silk. Those hormones either lead to a shortened larval period and therefore quicker cocoon spinning process, or cause the silk worm to eat an increased amount of mulberry leaves, which in return leads to an increased body weight and therefore a larger amount of silk. Besides the issues in terms of animal welfare and environmental harm, conventional silk production also often involves child labour, and in addition to that the chemicals and pesticides used during the manufacturing process are of course also harmful to workers.
A great alternative to conventional silk is peace silk, also known as "Ahimsa silk" or non-violent silk. Unlike conventional silk production, the silk moth can either hatch from its cocoon naturally or the cocoons are cut open so it can emerge unharmed. In addition to that, most peace silk producers also choose to not use any chemicals in the production process. The peace silk from Cocccon for example is GOTS certified, they refrain from using pesticides or chemicals, and the production takes place in a natural environment. In addition to that, the company has created hundreds of jobs in the rural parts of Jharkand in India, and they ensure that their workers are getting paid fair wages.
However, one downside to peace silk is its increased price compared to conventional silk. Due to the silk moth either leaving the cocoon naturally or the cocoon being cut open, the broken filament needs to be knotted back together using a special technique. The production of peace silk is therefore more labour and cost intensive than regular silk, which also reflects in the price of the fabric.
In addition to that there is a clear lack of certifications for peace silk production. Because of that, there is no particular guideline for the production process, and the suppliers can pretty much make up their own. Some might embrace the animal welfare aspect, but use chemicals or pesticides for the mulberry leaves. Others might cut the silk worms out of the cocoons, but only to then sell them as nutritional food. Without these certifications the individual production processes can vary to a great extent - in the end it all comes down to thorough research and/or trustworthy suppliers.
Of course there are also a lot of beautiful items made from peace silk available in the online shop, which you can access by clicking on the images. In addition to that you can find the full collection of peace silk items here. It is pricey, yes! But if you think of all the little silk worms you'll be saving, it's definitely worth it.
Enjoy the rest of your week!