‘Eri’ silk

‘Eri’ silk

all the beauty and luxury, none of the cruelty

All the beauty and luxury, none of the cruelty

Sometimes also known as a type of ‘peace’ silk or ‘ahimsa’ silk, eri silk is produced in a sustainable and cruelty free manner. Being silk, it is lustrous, soft and suitable for wearing in both warm and cool weather, and completely biodegradable. When produced responsibly, it is a beautiful, eco-friendly fabric that is both luxurious and hardy. Why is traditional silk problematic? Traditional silk, including commonly used mulberry, tussar and mogar silk varieties, is widely used in fashion and household goods. Such silk, however, is produced through an extremely cruel process. Silk worms are fed and allowed to spin a cocoon around themselves. The cocoons are then boiled, steamed or dried in the sun, horrifically killing the silk worm inside, so that the cocoon can then be spun into silk.

What is ahimsa silk/ peace silk?

Ahimsa in Sanskrit roughly translates to non violence, non cruelty and non injury. Ahimsa refers to a more humane alternative to the conventional silk production process. Under the ahimsa process, the silk worm is allowed to complete its natural metamorphosis from silk worm to moth and emerge from the cocoon. The empty cocoon that is left behind is then used to weave silk.

Is all ahimsa silk/ peace silk truly cruelty free?

All ahimsa / peace silk is not exactly cruelty free. While silk produced using the ahimsa method does not kill the silk worm directly, it still presents some problems. Popular silk varieties, such as mulberry silk, are created from silk worms that have been bred over centuries specifically for the silk production purpose and have hence lost most survival abilities, having never been allowed to grow into a moth. As a result, even if the silk moths are allowed to leave the cocoon on their own, they often emerge blind and with underdeveloped wings, making them prey soon after they leave the cocoon. Else, the silk moths are simply used repeatedly for breeding until they die.

What is the environmental impact of silk?

Commercial cultivation of silk, including those produced under the ahimsa method, can have significant energy needs for temperature and humidity control and subsequent drying and other processing. Usage of water and subsequent untreated release and usage of artificial dyes are other issues.

How can eri silk be a sustainable and cruelty
free option?

Sway uses eri silk that is:
Produced using the ahimsa method that allows the silk moth to leave the cocoon on its own In order to ensure silk moths are not bred into losing their survival abilities, successive generations of silk worms are not used. Instead, the weavers bring back small quantities of wild silk moths for each cycle which breed silk worms and then fly away. The silk worms similarly go back into the wild once they emerge from their cocoons.
The silk is produced by small scale weavers often working out of their homes in cottage industry style set ups, close to forested areas in rural India. High energy and water usage associated with commercial production is thereby avoided.
The silk is then hand dyed using eco-friendly, non-toxic all natural pigments derived from products such as turmeric, henna, pomegranate and marigold flower.
This method of eri silk production also has near zero impact from related activities – no fertilizers or pesticides are used on feed for the silk worms and no chemicals are used for the dyeing process.

What are the qualities of eri silk?
The eri silk used by Sway is soft, lustrous and luxurious. The eri silk moth spins a cocoon that has shorter fibres and a hole at the mouth that allows it to leave the cocoon. As a result, the eri silk spun has more texture. Each yardage of fabric is unique in this respect. The thicker fibres also make eri silk suitable for repeated wear without tearing. Eri silk is also biodegradable and has excellent temperature control properties which make it suitable for warm and cool weather.