Susta-Style by Bronte Hogarth
We know it can be difficult to understand exactly what sustainable fashion means, and the material your clothing is made from plays a BIG role in it’s environmental impact! The Susta-Style 1MW Guide to Sustainable Fabrics series will look at the most sustainable materials in use today, and also the fabric innovations that lie ahead for the future.
Wild Silk and Peace Silk are our sustainable fabrics this week.
As we learned last week, the traditional process of silk cultivation (even organic silk) normally sees the silk-moth’s killed in their cocoons before they emerge, thus they do not break a hole in the chrysalis which damages the continuous silk filament that can be 300m to 1,000+m long.
- Sericulture, using leaves of mulberry trees to cultivate silk and results in a white silk. Can be organic.
Wild Silk, or Tussah silk, is a different process of silk making where the caterpillars are able to grow into moths and the cocoon is collected after they have emerged naturally. This differs to regular silk production where the moths are killed, therefore wild silk is also known as vegetarian silk. Because these moths stay alive, they leave a hole in their silk cocoon when they leave it, breaking the continuous silk filament. Wild silk tends to be:
- A darker, browner colour, reflecting its food source, often oak trees or tannin rich trees.
- More uneven, rougher and less shiny than cultivated silk, but tends to be stronger.
Peace silk is also created by allowing the silkworms to emerge from their cocoons. However it differs to wild silk as the caterpillars are domesticated in the same way as cultivated silk until they encase themselves in a cocoon, as opposed to being found in the wild. Once the moths have emerged the broken cocoons are then collected and the segments of threads are mended using a spinning process. It’s a commercial process between sericulture and wild silk. Peace silk tends to be:
- Slightly thicker with small irregularities because of the spinning process, but is part of its aesthetic.
- More expensive as it is a timely production process and less people are trained with these skills.
What to watch out for:
Conventional silk, as well as some peace silk, comes from the bombyx mori caterpillar, or silkworm. This caterpillar does not exist naturally in the wild because humans have domesticated it for so many centuries that it cannot survive on its own. This results in the moth dyeing after it has mated because it has no adaptations to feed itself.
Ahimsa silk comes from India and is usually made from Eri and Tassar moth cocoons which feed on the castor plant. It is the only other domesticated silkworm other than the bombyx mori. In ahimsa production, producers allow the moths to hatch as do other producers of peace silk, but other peace silks may still be made from bombyx mori silk fibers, which are not considered cruelty-free because of the type of silk worms used.
Wild silk does not involve the bombyx mori, as this species does not exist in the wild. Therefore, is perhaps a more sustainable choice, or peace silks that are produced not using the bombyx mori moth.
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- Susta-Style is a weekly post on sustainable fashion, shopping and design.