In a fast depleting state of our natural resources, we owe a lot to our earth for very invaluable raw material that we are ripping off of our environment. One of the most polluting industries in the world today is deemed to be the Fashion Industry and simultaneously it is the field which requires maximum, continual effort and innovation to appeal to the dynamic states of the masses. In this light, let us look at one of the most widely used and versatile raw materials of the fashion industry-Silk!
What is Ahimsa Silk?
Developed in the ancient the sericulture industry in India today boasts of the world’s second largest producer of silken fabric and fiber. We have our own indigenous strains of Tussar, Eri, Muga etc. thriving in national as well as International markets. To understand the entire process of Silk Production, we must understand how the yarn is produced from the worm. The source of the fiber is the silkworm (Bombyx morii), the cocoon of which is the source of silk protein. In the life cycle of the silkworm, the caterpillar enters the pupa stage by forming the cocoon. This cocoon is then placed in boiling water to loosen the silk fiber by heating and denaturation and thus terminating the life cycle of the silk moths. Traditionally, cultivated on Mulberry trees, these silkworms come with a sealed fate of death in the process of silk production thus rendering the method harmful and detrimental for the silk moth. Hence the need for a more sustainable, eco-friendly method was born.
Harvesting the fiber from the cocoon
This paved the way for the production of Ahimsa Silk- non-violent silk which does not involve the killing of the caterpillars. In this method, the cocoon was harvested and silk extracted from the structure only once the silk moth has hatched out. In this case, either the cocoon is cut open once the moth has grown or it is preserved until the moth hatches out. In either method, the concern is to save the cocoon and the chemical and physical from contamination either by the excretions of the silk moth or during its emergence from the structure. However, the procedure is much more precise and time-consuming as compared to the boiling of live pupae and killing of the moths.
Quality and Texture
One of the primary reasons of the popularity of the Ahimsa Silk is the restored quality and texture of the material and the more humane method of production of the same. Although it is protective of the natural resources and ensures the life cycle of the bedazzling silkworms. Although the same amount of silk requires 10 more days to be added to the production, it is appealing to the buyers of religious and environmental beliefs
The man behind Ahimsa Silks
This massive shift from the norm was brought about when Kusuma Rajaiah decided to apply the non- violent practices to the method of silk production as well. After graduating from Indian Institute of Handloom Technology, he served as a government officer from the Handloom Department in Telangana State. During an industrial visit, he was questioned about a way to produce silk without killing the silkworms. This led him to explore the methodology which can preserve the life of the silk moths as well as produce silk. Started way back in 1993, his approach has received widespread acclaim and following. This also gave birth to his venture Ahimsa Silks making him the inventor and patent holder of this concept. However, in recent times there has been much popularity of this has caused many fabric manufacturers to replicate his technique. Although he boasts of a large export market in Europe, parts of Asia and many International celebrity patrons, there is little change in the Indian scenario.
One can only be hopeful for the shift in perspective of fashion enthusiasts and buyers to a more sustainable manner of silk production. This would allow, the greater prosperity of the handloom workers as well as a gentler way of excavating silk.
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