Silk is a thing so fine that the very word brings a lustrous, buttery soft canvas to mind. Behind this age old fabric, are a large number of silkworms that are killed for the sake of luxury & convenience. Not a pretty picture, right? The need to get the same fabric, but in a more humane way, gave rise to Ahimsa Silk or Peace silk. It originated in India in the 90’s and has traveled the world since. We’ve seen celebrities like Suzy Amis Cameron & Sunny Leone promoting green fabrics on the red carpet or even conscious consumers opting for vegan clothing options.
How is Traditional Silk Obtained?
Traditional silk is obtained by killing silkworms in an inhumane manner. A single female moth lays 500-600 eggs that hatch within 10 days. These larvae feed on mulberry leaves for about a month and then wrap themselves into a cocoon for about 2 weeks, after which a fully grown moth emerges. While coming out of the cocoon, the moth ends up creating a hole at one end, disrupting the silk filaments. In order to prevent this from happening, the silkworms are gassed/killed while they’re dormant inside the cocoons. After mating itself, all male moths are discarded and thrown away. Once the female moth lays eggs, she too is crushed brutally to check for diseases, ultimately killing her in the process. If found to be diseased, their eggs are destroyed too. According to PETA, around 7000 silkworms are killed so as to obtain just one kg of silk fabric. Too cruel a process, don’t you think?
What is Ahimsa or Peace Silk & How is it Obtained?
Kusuma Rajaiah (Inventor & Patent Holder of Ahimsa silk) put in great efforts to come up with an alternative way to get silk that doesn’t harm silkworms, yet maintains the quality of fabric needed. His efforts led to Ahimsa silk that literally translates to non-violent silk or peace silk. It revolves around collecting vacant cocoons that have been discarded by the worms and left behind in forests. This process doesn’t involve caging silkworms or harming them in any way.
The only difference is that, instead of a continuous filament obtained from a complete cocoon, a couple of shorter fibers are obtained from these discarded cocoons. The fabric produced is a little less lustrous, but equally competitive if not more when compared to all other qualities of traditional silk.
Production of this silk takes more time as it involves a few extra weeks for the insects to mature and fly off. All cocoons are individually checked to make sure they are vacant after which the manufacturing actually starts. Spinning silk fibers into yarns and then weaving these yarns into fabric takes up the same amount of time, that is 90-100 days. Given the extra time for production and limited quantity, the prices are almost double when compared to silk. This is one of the main reasons behind this being a niche product.
Do People Know About Ahimsa Silk?
The concept is loved by many but the market scenario is not that great. The demand for cruelty-free silk mostly comes from the West. India is still a price sensitive market and we’re also conditioned to lustrous silk.
However, various designers like Wendell Rodricks, Archana Kochhar, have come up with collections using Ahimsa silk, thereby spreading the word and showing their support for cruelty-free vegan fabrics.
“By saving each silkworm in the process of creating Ahmisa Silk, they are set free as silk moths. This transformation has inspired me to incorporate hundreds of tiny silk moth wings and cocoon-shaped textures which are then bound together in the form of intricate textural embroidery which is the focal element of the collection.”Archana Kochhar (as told to India Today)
We’re hoping an increase in the demand for Peace Silk as people are growing more and more conscious about the environment and sustainability practices in general.
Like we say, it’s cool to care! Have a heart and love the environment, bake a cake of conscience and have a slice of sustainability as it sure is tasty!