The Dark Side of Traditional Silk
When it comes to ethically and sustainably produced fabrics and global fashion houses changing their ways, the focus has been heavily geared towards leather and fur. But even silk production doesn’t come without a huge cost.
Silk has always been recognized as a luxury fabric. Soft and smooth, draping beautifully and used by many talented designers, most of us appreciate the fabric’s beauty and flattering fit without ever questioning what it takes to produce it. And let me tell you, the production of silk is a lot darker than what you might expect.
A lot of people are unaware that silk is made from actual silkworms - hence the name! To make just one pound of raw silk, anywhere between 5000 and 7000 silkworms have to die. Shortly after silkworms hide away in their cocoons and finish spinning, the pods are collected and submerged in boiling water. This is because when the silkworm would naturally come out of its cocoon it damages the yarn used to make the silk. By boiling the silkworms before they have the chance to come out, manufacturers are able to easily retrieve a yarn that is still intact.
Some will argue that there is a second method of producing silk that does not require killing the silkworms but sadly that isn’t entirely true. In the production of Peace Silk, the pupa develops into a moth, tears a hole in the cocoon and emerges but because silk moths have been domesticated for thousands of years, upon emerging from the cocoon they are unable to fly or even to eat, and therefore only live for a couple of days. Aside from that, in creating the exit hole, the continuous strand of thread is interrupted leading to a slightly different textured fabric, more similar to raw silk. Although not as smooth and glossy, this silk is beautiful in its own way and comes at a higher price to the customer.
The Vegan Silk used in all of niLuu’s products was created as an ethical and sustainable alternative. In the production of our fabrics, no silkworms are used or killed, and absolutely no animal proteins are used in the production process. It’s not commonly known, but industrial fabric softeners are often made with bone marrow and egg yolk! So it’s unlikely that the tees and jeans we wear, even though made of cotton, can be certified vegan. Surprising, right?
Different fabrics claim to be good silk alternatives. Viscose, also known as Rayon, is one of the most common. Recently, rayon made from bamboo cellulose has become more common. Unfortunately, the process of producing this fiber can be very polluting. It essentially transforms the vegetable fibers of wood or bamboo with chemicals that are very harmful to the environment if released into nature. Many companies are offering bamboo based rayon products while claiming to be sustainable. Yet, no information on their sourcing and production practices is available. My rule of thumb is that if the cost and quality looks too good to be true, it can't be sustainable.
Our Vegan Silk is instead made with a cupro based fabric using an innovative yarn called Bemberg which is made from the smart-tech transformation of cotton linters bio-utility materials converted through a traceable and transparent closed loop process. It uses the lint surrounding a cotton seed, which is typically discarded to transform into a very thin and long fiber very much like a real silk fiber. Which is why it has that luxurious feel and look, at niLuu we call it The Silk Sense. Our Bemberg yarn is sourced from and exclusively made by Asahi Kasei in Japan and then later produced into our vegan silk cupro by the #1 company in Turkey for sustainability, Ipeker Textile. They are the first factory in the world to achieve the Vegan V-Label certificate and have their own special patent for creating our fabric without using any animal proteins.
For our pillowcases, which I would say are amazing :), we mix cupro with high quality viscose made from ECOVERO fibres. These are produced by Austrian textile giant Lenzing and have been certified with the EU Ecolabel, meaning they meet high environmental standards throughout their lifecycle, from raw material extraction to production, distribution and disposal. Even the manufacture of ECOVERO generates up to 50% lower emissions and water impact compared to generic Viscose fabric.
Mixing Cupro and Ecovero results in the rich fabric used for our pillowcases, delivering the same benefits of silk - such as being good for your hair and your skin (we do rest our heads on a pillowcase every night for 8 hours, don’t we?) - but with a much denser, richer fabric that no silk can compare.
I founded niLuu to market a vegan, ethical alternative to traditional silk, maintaining exceptional quality and designing timeless pieces. Our breathable PETA-approved Vegan fabric is not only beautiful, but doesn’t dry out your skin and hair and its silky feel reduces friction on your skin and so also has anti-aging benefits.
To top it all off, our fabrics are easy to care for – you can wash and tumble dry them, and ironing is optional. They’re also biodegradable, recyclable and require less water and detergent to clean.
In light of the traditional silk production and a worldwide push toward a more sustainable lifestyle, we launched niLuu to provide high-quality, luxury pieces at a low environmental cost.
I am very excited to have embarked on this journey and share it with the world.