ASOS bans silk, so what alternatives are there?
The online retailer ASOS has recently announced that it will stop stocking garments made from cashmere, mohair, silk, and feathers by 2019. This change in their animal welfare policy is a move to reduce the suffering of animals in the manufacturing of cosmetics or clothing within the fashion industry. Brands whose products are made from these materials will now have to source alternatives to continue working with ASOS. Fortunately, there are a growing number of more ethical and sustainable alternatives out there that can offer a similar look, feel and drape of silk without the price tag to match.
How is silk made and why have ASOS banned it?
Silk fibre is made out of animal proteins produced by worms. It has been around for over 5000 years, first in China before spreading to other parts of Asia. The worms build cocoons to transform themselves into moths but before the chrysalis is able to hatch the cocoon is taken and processed into fibres. Around 2500-3750 cocoons are needed to make half a kilo of it.
The problem with this process for a growing number of consumers and brands such as ASOS, is that often the worms are boiled alive in their cocoons. Because many consider them sentient beings, then this production process is seen as unethical. Brands who don’t work with silk have adopted a range of alternatives, including synthetics.
3 alternatives to silk
1. Spider silk
Despite the name, spiders are not used in the production of this material. The company that invented spider silk, Bolt Threads, studied spiders and their DNA to learn how the fibre was produced and work out a way to develop their own version. No spider DNA is used in its manufacture and the end product is completely synthetic. The great thing about this material is that it is made from renewable resources so the environmental impact is also lower.
2. Peace silk
This kind is similar to the usual variety but the worms are not boiled alive in the production process and are allowed to escape the cocoon unharmed. It can also be called Ahimsa or non-violent silk.
3. Rayon & Lyocell
Rayon was first used for making garments in France in the 1880s making it one of the oldest in the world. It is made from wood pulp cellulose and is cheap and easy to produce and has long been used as a substitute. It works well in this regard because it is soft yet strong and versatile, and if used from renewable forests it is a brilliantly sustainable alternative. Both Rayon and Lyocell can closely mimic the look feel and drape of silk, they dye well and blend well with other fibres. Read our article on Lyocell / Tencel
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