Silk is a well-known biological fiber recognized for its sheen, gloss, strength, and resilience. Silk has an extensive trading history across the globe. For thousands of years up until today, silk has been considered as the epitome of luxury because of its high cost to produce, spineless feel, and sophisticated appearance. Silk is a famous type of textile not only in luxury and couture fashion design, but also in other industries such as the bed linen industry.
In the past few years, there has been an observed growth in the popularity of Silk around the world, especially in North America. In fact, the present state of the Silk industry in the United States is doing excellently well. Not only are significant improvements being made in the manufacture of silk goods, but the progression of raw silk in numerous regions is also on the rise.
With that, the question comes into mind, why is Silk so popular in North America? This article will provide the answer to that question. So, if you are interested, keep on reading!
Beginnings of Silk Industry
About 5000 years ago, in ancient China, the culture of silkworms known as Bombyx mori started. The people of the ancient civilization of China were the first ones to unearth the secrets of cocoons of a lowly caterpillar. Chinese people learned that they could be disentangled and the filaments can be woven into some of the most beautiful fabrics in the world. During this time, Silk was reserved completely for the royalty of China because it was considered to be of the most elegant of all fabrics.
For eras, the secrets of silk production were diligently protected by the Chinese people. Not until about 300A.D., the secret of sericulture spread to Korea and from there to Japan. A few years later, in 552 A.D., under the commands of Emperor Justinian, two Nestorian monks trafficked silkworm eggs from China and transported them to Europe. This was considered as the beginning of the silk industry in the West. During the following centuries, sericulture spread swiftly throughout Europe and Asia.
Introduction to North America
Around 1619, James I of England presented sericulture to the American colonies, apparently to dissuade the planting of tobacco. The Shakers in Kentucky accepted the custom. During the early 1800s, in many areas of the United States such as New England, silkworm culture and production of silk was already considered as a domestic trade. Furthermore, an effort at a silk industry started in the 19th century with European-born workers in Paterson, New Jersey, and the city became a US silk center, though Japanese imports were still more significant. However, World War II interfered with the trade of silk from Japan. Silk prices increased considerably, and US industry began to find alternatives of the fabric. This led to the utilization of synthetics including nylon. Synthetic silks have also been made from lyocell, a type of cellulose fiber, and are frequently challenging to discriminate from authentic silk.
Silk in Modern Times in USA
According to market research, the global annual silk production sits at roughly 202,000 metric tons per year and generates about 0.24% of total fiber use. But, as a primarily luxury item, silk commands a per unit price of approximately US$15 per kilo, resulting in a value of production of around $3.03 billion per year. In fact, in 2013, the total value of international trade in silk was approximately $833 million. Countries, like the USA, involved in the international silk industry are members of the International Sericulture Commission under the auspices of the United Nations for the promotion of silk and the silk industry.
Today, the silk market is still thriving not only because it is significantly more famous and wanted by people but because it needs less investment as it does not require complex machinery and apparatus for its manufacture. However, it must be noted that it is more labor intensive as compared to the investment intensive industries. These considerations power the growth of the market. Furthermore, development opportunities in the silk market are also driven by the high demand from textile, cosmetic, and medical industries. With that, in the past few years, silk is increasing in popularity in North America.
Luxury fashion and linen companies have produced products using silk. This also paved the way for silk to be greatly popularized in North America. Today, Silk is still considered as the queen of fibers even after thousands of years of usage. Other than the social status that silk comes with, it also provides a number of benefits that many really aim to experience that is why a number of people invest in Silk. These are some additional reasons why silk has become very popular in North America:
- Silk has excellent hypoallergenic abilities. This is why it is considered as an ideal choice of fabric for those with asthma, allergies, or sensitive skin. Silk fibers are very smooth in texture, so silk will not rub on and irritate the skin. Silk fabrics also have insulating properties, which keeps moisture close to the skin. Thus, it is exceptional at maintaining the skin hydrated. These are some of the main reasons why silk pillowcases and sleeping masks have become so popular in recent years
- Clothing produced using synthetic materials is normally not recyclable or biodegradable and therefore accumulates in landfills around the globe. Silk is made out of natural material. With that, silk is considered to be a biodegradable fabric, which means it can be broken down by bacteria alone after a long time. Though pure silk may take years before it degrades, it is still nice knowing that using such natural materials for clothing means not contributing to environmental pollution. This is another reason why many people in North America like to invest in silk because it somehow helps in fighting against global warming and other environmental issues.
- Silk has excellent insulating natural fibers. This means that silk clothing is amazing at maintaining warmth in the body. Silk also has an incredible warmth-to-thickness ratio. Even a thin and lightweight silk fabric can keep you warm when worn close to the skin. This is why silk fabrics are a popular choice in North America during colder seasons for insulating clothing, especially undergarments.
- Other than being a durable fabric that is beneficial to your skin and hair, silk is also very popular because it is definitely beautiful to look at. Silk’s luxurious appearance and feel is unmatched across the world. Silk fabrics have a beautiful sheen because of the silk fiber’s triangular prism-like structure. The shape of a silk fiber refracts light at different angles, which provides its glistening look. The shine of a silk fabric also depends on the weaving or production method utilized on the silk. Silk is a superbly flexible material, which can be woven into many different weaves. This property alone is the reason why people in North America are interested in investing in silk.
- Common Objective. 2018. Silk and Sustainable Silk. Retrieved from: https://www.commonobjective.co/article/silk-and-sustainable-silk. Retrieved on 20 October 2021.
- National Museum of American History. 2019. From hanging on by a thread, to buying a thread: the rise of the U.S. silk industry. Retrieved from: https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/silk. Retrieved on 20 October 2021.
- New World Encyclopedia. 2018. Silk. Retrieved from: https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Silk. Retrieved on 20 October 2021.
- Sewport. 2021. What is Silk Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where. Retrieved from: https://sewport.com/fabrics-directory/silk-fabric. Retrieved on 20 October 2