Silk: Caught in a Web of Deceit

Written by Veronica Kassatly

Photo Courtesy of the International Sericulture Commission

I am grateful to Mr. João Berdu of Brazil’s Vale da Seda for his assistance in preparing this series of articles. All silk data that is not otherwise attributed, was provided by Mr. Berdu.

Silk is, without doubt, currently the most vilified and most misunderstood fabric in the sustainable fashion lexicon. How did this happen and why? In a series of 3 articles, I hope to shed some light on the absurdity and injustice of many of the claims; to provide some history and context around both silk production and its cultural significance; to touch upon sericulture’s importance to some of the world’s most underserved and disadvantaged; and to propose a new way to look at silk: as a fiber that could be a prototype of what sustainable fashion should look like.

Part 1: The Bodies of Bodhisattvas Transformed, the Manifestation of Unparalleled Generosity

With its complete disregard for any culture not its own, and for any value system not guided by western market metrics, the ‘sustainable’ apparel sector has attacked silk production relentlessly, employing an array of unsubstantiated and misleading claims and assertions, and an astonishing dual standard.

The conclusion is obvious. We cannot continue to allow ‘sustainable’ fashion to march roughshod over traditions and cultures that date back hundreds, or even thousands of years, simply because those who hold different values are currently poor, vulnerable, and unable to retaliate.

Read this article for background and details on how ‘sustainable’ fashion has attacked silk production.


Part 2: Yellow Peril or Green Dressing

In this second piece in the series, I examine fashion’s acquiescence to – or perhaps exploitation of – vegan supremacy in sustainability analysis, and the partial and selective manner in which both costs and benefits are assigned to silk production.


Part 3: White Space or Twelve Million People Don’t Matter

In this third and final article, we look at another double standard employed by sustainable fashion to demonize silk: the notion that carbon offsetting applies to all trees but mulberry trees. And we take a quick look at the harm that billionaires, their brands, and their funded initiatives have done to some of the poorest on the planet – not to mention to climate change.