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5 vegan alternatives for silk if you love “silky” soft fabrics

@preethiness profile image

Pexel Photo: Marcus Silva

Imagine wrapping yourself in a soft and lustrous piece of fabric. The twist? It’s made from insect saliva. That’s the reality of silk, a natural fiber produced by insects, derived from their nests and cocoons. It may be luxurious and soft but silk production today is harmful to the animal kingdom and the environment.

According to PETA, roughly 3,000 silkworms are killed to make a single pound of silk. As the material is derived from the cocoons of larvae, most silkworms raised by the industry don’t live past the pupal stage.

It’s time we all switch to conscious silk alternatives. Here are five alternatives that are far more sustainable and don’t involve any animal cruelty.

1. Orange Fiber

Orange Fiber Photo: Orange Fiber

Surprising as this might be, a fabric made from an orange is soft, shiny and works as a great silk alternative. This innovative feat is thanks to the efforts of Orange Fiber, an Italian company that uses citrus peel that would otherwise be discarded.

The high rate of consumption of oranges in Italy may have helped catalyze this very specific innovation. In that country alone, more than one million tonnes of citrus fruit is wasted every year.

Both luxurious and high street fashion brands are getting on board the orange express. Salvatore Ferragamo was the first to launch a capsule collection made with Orange Fiber. This was followed by H&M’s Conscious Collection, which is taking the fabric mainstream. Today, H&M offers a wide range of clothes made from orange fiber.

2. Tencel

Tencel Photo: Amour Vert

Tencel is well-known in the sustainable fashion industry for being both eco-friendly and biodegradable. The fabric is made from wood pulp cellulose and is considered one of the most sustainable vegan materials in use today.

See also: 10 eco-friendly swimwear brands to add to your wardrobe

3. Ramie

Ramie Photo: Dressarte Paris

Ramie is one of the oldest existing fibre crops, having been in use for over 6,000 years since the days of Ancient Egypt. It originates from the stalks of a flowering plant from the nettle family. The plant also grows quickly and is available for harvest from three to six times a year. When spun while wet, it creates a soft, silky yarn. The fabric has a natural wrinkle-free texture. Despite being used as a fabric since ancient times, it has only begun making inroads in the fashion sphere in recent years. Those looking to acquire clothes made from this fabric can check out French sustainable womenswear label Dressarte Paris. It has a collection made from 100 percent ramie, available in standard or customized sizes.

4. Microsilk

Microsilk Photo: Bolt Threads

After studying silk proteins spun by spiders, Bolt Threads, a US based material innovation company, decided to replicate the same properties as spider silk to make Microsilk. Microsilk is made by infusing spider DNA with yeast, sugar and water in a fermentation process. The mixture is then purified, resulting in liquid silk protein that forms a supple, versatile yarn that can be used in many different applications. While the process involves no spiders in its development, the fabric mimics the soft yet durable and resistant properties of spider silk. Stella McCartney was the first to showcase a dress made from Microsilk at the MoMA (NYC) in October 2017. Then in 2019, Stella McCartney x Adidas unveiled the Biofabric Tennis Dress, created with Microsilk.

5. Bamboo Silk

Bamboo Silk Photo: Spun Bamboo

Bamboo may seem like an extremely sturdy plant (it can, afterall, be used in construction) but when crushed into a pulp and then processed with enzymes, it transforms into a yarn with the softness of silk. While it’s largely a renewable resource, it is being developed in a large commercial scale that could sometimes come at the expense of natural forestland. So be sure to check that brands are Oeko-Tex certified, which certifies that the fabric is free from more than 100 substances known to harm human health and ensures that you’re purchasing eco and ethical products, . This ensures that you’re purchasing eco and ethical products. Brands to look out for that use bamboo silk can consider Kokoro Organics, which makes kimonos, pants and tops from silky bamboo fibres, while male customers might like Spun Bamboo, which offers everything from T-shirts to shorts, socks and even underwear.

Check out our guide to eco-labels to ensure your purchases are sustainable.

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@vegananu profile image
There is banana silk which is mix of banana plant fibre and cotton. Then there is modal silk which is a wood pulp based cellulosic fibre made from beech trees extract.
@april27 profile image
Where can I find these kinds of fabric? How to identify it?
@vivalaviolet profile image
Where are some great affordable brands to find these fabrics?
@preethiness profile image
Spun Bamboo, Organic Basics, All Birds and Patagonia are some Brands that sell these fabrics
@alexsea profile image
2022: there are alternatives for all animal products and each of these alternatives avoids unnecessary animal suffering and is many times more sustainable, as we do not need a middleman that consumes unnecessary resources. We live in a sick world. It is not the vegan products that should be labeled, but all others should be labeled as ruthless, cruel and inhumane.
@asmryouveganyet profile image
Bamboo silk is amazing. I have bamboo silk sheets and they're worth the money. I look forward to trying the other types. I loved silk, fur, leather, etc and I'm glad we have alternatives and can leave animals alone.
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