Ahimsa Silk: A Slice of Cruelty Free Luxury

Ahimsa Silk: A Slice of Cruelty Free Luxury

Astuti Khan
Senior Sourcing Officer (Myntra Fashion Brands)
Myntra Jabong Pvt. Ltd.
Dept. of Fashion Technology,
National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT)
Email: astutikhan99@gmail.com

 

Silk is a thing so fine that the very word brings a lustrous, buttery soft canvas to mind. Behind this mask of luxury though, are a large number of silkworms that are killed for the sake of having intact cocoons. 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, be it on the red carpet with celebrities like Suzy Amis and Sunny Leone promoting green fabrics or conscious consumers opting for vegan clothing options.

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. PETA states that around 7000 silkworms are killed so as to obtain just one kg of silk fabric. Too cruel a process, don’t you think?

The man behind Ahimsa silk saree
Figure 1: The man (Kusuma Rajaiah) behind Ahimsa silk (Source DNAIndia)

Kusuma Rajaiah from Hyderabad, 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 so 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 and after this is when the manufacturing actually starts. Spinning silk fibres 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.

Ahimsa silk production
Figure 2: Ahimsa silk production

The concept is loved by many but the market scenario is not that great. The demand for cruelty-free silk comes mostly from the West, and not from our country as people still fancy lustrous silk. However, various designers like Stella McCartney, Wendell Rodricks, Linda Loudermilk, Deborah Lindquist, Archana Kochhar, Samant Chauhan have come up with collections using Ahimsa silk, thereby spreading the word and showing their support for cruelty-free vegan fabrics. A lot of labels and retailers too like Akira Ming, The Loom Art, Ajna, Poethica and Marks andSpencers have started embracing this concept and are trying to present more and more collections using such materials.

Growth in demand is expected for this 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!

Summary:

  1. Silk is a thing so fine that the very word brings a lustrous, buttery soft canvas to mind. It is not as clean as it looks though.
  2. For each kilogram of fabric that you buy, around 7000 silkworms are killed.
  3. The need to get the same fabric, but in a more humane way, gave rise to Ahimsa Silk or Peace silk.
  4. Ahimsa silk is made from vacant, discarded cocoons and the whole process of manufacturing doesn’t involve harming silkworms in any way.
  5. Sure, it takes a little more time to produce this silk and the price is a little high, but it’s a price worth the result.
  6. Many celebrities (Suzy Amis, Sunny Leone) and designers all over the world are promoting sustainable, cruelty-free fashion. Have a heart, and go green!

References:

  1. https://www.peta.org.uk/issues/animals-not-wear/silk/
  2. http://www.ahimsasilks.com/aboutus/

You may also like:

  1. Silk Fiber: Types, Properties, Manufacturing Process and Uses
  2. An Overview of Silk Fibres: India Perspectives
  3. Silk Dyeing Process
  4. Different Types of Spider Silk and Its Importance in Textile Business
  5. Prospects of Silk Industry in India
  6. Present Scenario of Kanchipuram Silk Saree Industry
  7. Overview of Traditional Silk Sarees of India
  8. Metallic Fibre Vs Art Silk: Which is Better?

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