Is Silk Cruelty Free? 4 Surprising Facts About How Traditional Silk Is Made
You might be surprised to find out that silk is not an inherently cruelty-free fabric. With something as popular and luxurious as silk, it can be shocking to realize that we don’t actually know the fabrics we’re wearing or sleeping on as well as we thought.
Our sourcing team took the time to compile the 4 most interesting (and surprising) facts about silk to help you become a more educated consumer.
Silk is made from the cocoons of mulberry silkworms.
Silk is often touted as one of the most natural fabrics on the market. And while that may be the case, it’s only because it’s made from actual insects: Silkworms. More than 6,500 silkworms, or Bombyx mori, are killed to make just 2.2 pounds of silk.
And most mass market fabric companies practice unethical and cruel processes to create the silk we know and love.
When silkworms have consumed enough mulberry leaves, they naturally start to make their cocoon. During this 3 to 6 day process, the silkworm starts to secrete a sticky liquid protein called fibron. This protein hardens as it comes into contact with the air and is spun into a cocoon. The silk is then made by unraveling the fibers in hot water and weaving them tightly together to create a fabric. This process is often referred to as sericulture.
Companies often do things to speed up the process to make it more affordable and efficient, like the next point below.
Some farmers boil the silkworms alive.
The process of creating silk can harm the integrity of the fibron mentioned above. In some cases, farmers will boil the silkworms alive in order to make the process easier and more efficient—which in turn creates a more cruel silk product in the end. In some cases, they may be gassed alive as well.
Cruelty-free silk is extremely hard to find.
As you might have read in our last blog, we are on our way to becoming one of the few brands in the world offering cruelty-free silk products! That’s right: Silk is not an inherently cruelty free product. And it’s nearly impossible to make vegan silk—but it can be made in an ethical and less harmful way (which is what we will be doing with our new line!)
Companies like us that make or source ethical and cruelty-free silk are few and far between. That’s because the process for making this type of product is much longer and more expensive than the traditional silk-making process. Instead of boiling the silkworms alive, most cruelty-free silk companies allow the silk fibers to come out naturally and use that to create the silk.
Regular silk, utilizing cruel and inhumane methods, takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. Cruelty-free silk, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks extra time—which is obviously more expensive in terms of production and labor costs.
There is no such thing as vegan silk.
There’s one question we get a lot: “Is silk vegan?” and unfortunately, the answer is no. Because silk is made out of silkworms, even if it’s with the fibron produced naturally by the insect in cruelty-free silk, it’s still not considered vegan.
There are some vegan fabrics that try to mimic the look and feel of silk, but they will never actually be silk or offer the same benefits as the natural fabric itself. That being said, there are methods like the ones we use that really help make the process more humane and something you can be proud to purchase.
At MADI Apparel, we're dedicated to sourcing the most ethical fabrics from around the world, and that includes our new line of cruelty-free silk products. When you shop with us, you can trust that we put copious amounts of time, energy and resources into ensuring that our line of products is as good for the environment as it is for your body.
We are so excited to officially share this line with you! Stay tuned for more details.