Stella McCartney has opened up about her decision to stop using silk in her collection, saying a move towards animal-free fashion is “critical.”
The designer, who is well-known for using mostly plant-based materials, spoke to Plant Based News (PBN) co-founder Robbie Lockie about the importance of vegan fashion at her recent Paris Fashion Week show.
Currently, McCartney has around three garments made from silk, which is a non-vegan fiber produced by silkworms.
These worms would naturally transform into moths, but they are killed in the production process before they are able to transform. When they are around 35 days old, they start to spin their cocoons which would usually turn them into moths. While doing this, they secrete a liquid version of silk out of their heads.
The cocoons will often be dropped into boiling water so they unravel, allowing the silk to be collected. This process kills the worms. Worms may also be killed by freezing, baking, and steaming.
McCartney said that moving away from silk is her “big goal.” She added that she’s got a “hard deadline” to stop using the material.
“I was reading something only last week about plant-based silk that comes from plants in Morocco,” she added. “I’m going to find, and I’m going to use it, and that’s going to be that.”
According to McCartney’s website, her collection uses a mixture of traditional silk and Peace Silk. While silkworms (which are actually caterpillars) are killed in the traditional process, Peace Silk production allows the insects to turn into moths and fly away.
There are now many vegan silk alternatives available on the market, meaning more designers could move away from the animal version in future.
McCartney’s emphasis on plant-based materials
McCartney, a vegetarian, has long heralded the importance of using animal-free fibers. She recently launched a $200 million investment fund for eco-friendly businesses. Vegan leather brand Bolt Threads was one of the recipients.
In her summer 2023 collection, McCartney uses a leather-alternative made from grapes, as well as the mushroom-based mycelium leather named Mylo.
“What I try to do at Stella is really show people that you really don’t have to sacrifice anything for sustainability and for not killing animals,” she told Lockie. “All of the faux leather on that runway, nobody can tell anymore.”
The designer also discussed Slay, a new documentary that exposes cruelty and greenwashing in the fashion industry. McCartney described it as “phenomenal,” adding: “I’ve been doing this my whole life. And it’s quite surreal and exciting and frustrating that in 2022 we’ve only just been able to make a documentary like that.”
Fashion moves away from animals
In recent years, there has been growing awareness of the cruelty of using animals for fashion.
While the notoriety surrounding fur is well-known, the general public has been slower to wake up to the reality behind materials like leather, which is commonly thought of as a “byproduct” of the beef industry. (While this is often true, the leather industry is huge in its own right. It was valued at $407.92 billion in 2021.)
In 2018, Helsinki Fashion Week announced that it would ban animal-based leather from its runways. One of the first shows of this year’s London Fashion Week also showcased an all-vegan collection incorporating cactus leather.
There has also been an influx of sustainable leather alternatives used by mainstream designers in the last few years, including Hermès and Tommy Hilfiger.
A number of brands have also ditched animal-derived materials like mohair, exotic animal skins, and angora. And Stella McCartney isn’t alone in moving away from silk. In 2018, ASOS announced it would ditch silk, as well as cashmere, down, and feathers, from all of its collections.