The real deal: Karma conscious Ahimsa Silk shawls, only in India

The real deal: Karma conscious Ahimsa Silk shawls, only in India

Crepe de chine is notching up some next-life brownie points with revolutionary Ahimsa silk products from India, haute off the London Fashion Week runway
Ahimsa silk
Order Ahimsa Silk shawls and pillows at www.meditationbench.com

It’s not quite as desi as khadi -- silk was discovered by the Chinese -- but Gandhi would definitely approve of Ahimsa Silk products. "Ahimsa," a concept popularized by the Mahatma means "non-violence" and in the context of luxury fabric, the word refers to critter-friendly silk yarn collection.

Ahimsa Silk is softer and more comfortable to wear, doesn’t need to be dry-cleaned and the only visible difference is its more matte texture compared to ordinary silk.

The method was invented and patented by Kusuma Rajaiah, Technical Officer in the Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society (APCO). The story goes that in 1992, the society President's wife, Janaki Venkatraman, refused to accept silk sarees that involved the killing of silkworms. This struck a chord with Rajaiah and a few years later he set out to make samples of Ahimsa silk. In 2006, he was granted the patent and has since has been promoting Ahimsa silk to peace loving people around the world.

Rather than steaming or baking the silkworm in its cocoon, which is the way regular silk is made, Ahimsa Silk allows the larva to continue its metamorphosis into a moth, which then breaks out of its cocoon. What’s left behind is much less silk yarn to work with -- but zero threat to life. The counter argument is that the moths will overpopulate and become pests. However, Rajaiah says that the worm-larva-pupa-moth cycle takes place out in the open, in mulberry trees. The only difference is that his farmers collect the cocoon before the moth hatches to be able to appropriate it when the moth frees itself.

Price-wise, Ahimsa Silk is more expensive, as the amount of cocoons needed to generate a yarn of Ahimsa Silk is significantly greater than the amount needed for regular silk. But Ahimsa Silk is softer and more comfortable to wear, doesn’t need to be dry-cleaned, just hand-washed, and the only visible difference is its more matte texture compared to ordinary silk.

New York fashion label Ajna showed Ahimsa Silk (translated as "vegan wild silk," if you please!) at London Fashion Week this year and on October 2,  Gandhi's birthday, Goa-based fashion designer Wendell Rodricks decided to make Ahimsa Silk haute here in India.

How would you feel about karma happy saris, shawls and tie-dyed tunics? Available on order from www.ahimsasilks.com and www.meditationbench.com

Kusuma Rajaiah, G-3, Sai Nivas Enclave, Gokhale Nagar, Ramanthapur, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India; tel +91 (0) 9989 392461 kusumarajaiah@ahimsasilks.com