29 December 2016

#GoneGreen2016 | Day 274 | Akira Ming: Circular Story With Malkha Textiles and Ahimsa Silk

eco friendly, ethical, slow fashion, malkha textiles, ahimsa silk, green fashion, ethical ootd
Day 274 / 365

Throughout this series I’ve had the opportunity to meet, either in person or online, several the designers of the clothing I write about. They each share a similar tale to mine: they came from the non-eco sector, looking to use their talents and passions for the greater good rather than profit alone. It’s a story which always makes me smile, similar in some ways to the awakening stories of spirituality those lucky enough to have had room (and time) in our lives for deep introspection and self-discovery have experienced. It reminds me of that Nietzsche quote about the bursting star “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star”, it isn’t an easy transition, the work is harder than anything you’ll ever experience, but hot dang it, it’s worth it.

One of these diligent and dedicated designers, Divya Ahluwalia,  shares the tale of corporate to conscious with her collection, AKIRA MING, which she named after her daughter. Divya utilizes Malkha textiles and Ahimsa silk to create pieces which are both soft and structured with subtle yet distinct naturally dyed detailing to create a luxury, sustainably and ethically made concise collection for the modern bohemian.  

The two fabrics she’s using each have an interesting story. The first, Malkha, acts as a decentralized, sustainable, field-to-fabric organic cotton textile chain, collectively owned and managed by the primary producers. This includes the farmers who grow the cotton, the ginners who separate the cotton seed from the hulls of cotton fiber, the spinners who turn the plant to textile, the dyers, and weavers. This is an important initiative in many ways, one of which I just discussed with my husfriend before I started writing this piece.

For many Fairtrade or ethically made brands, the fabric production is not included under that definition, it just protects the garment industry workers who are sewing the fabric, not all those who came before the fabric hit the factories. If the fabric is organically grown, the farmers, ginners, and spinners avoid inhaling the toxic chemicals used on the plant. It if it is non-organic cotton, the workers in those three steps of fabric creation and their communities are hugely affected by the pesticides and chemicals used which seep into their waterways and thus into their food (meat, fruit, grains, veg, all of it). The effects for these workers, animals, and plants living in the area and the community of human are a horrific set of health harms.
On top of protecting against the ghettoization of the worker and pollution of nature as the norm, the Malkha way of making cotton cloth protects artisan skills. It offers for the first time in modern history, yarn specifically made for the handloom to rid the artisanal textile chain of its dependence on large spinning mills that distort the small-scale, village-based nature of handloom clothing making.

This allows people to work rurally, connecting the entire process, allowing the farmer, ginner, spinner and dyer to live in the same area and keeps workers near their homes rather than in the ghettos which surround the powerloom textile hubs.

This empowers the rural society both socially and politically, providing the missing link in the fully rural cotton textile industry using local raw material and local skills which strengthen the community overall. It also does away with unnecessary and wasteful processes in its journey from plant to cloth, is ecologically sensible, and least damaging to the intrinsic properties of cotton.

The second fabric is Ahimsa silk, which is what the beautiful EMMA DRESS you see in these photos is made of. It is known as peace silk and is a type of silk that is made in a fashion that is more humane to the creatures creating the silk than many traditional methodologies. Ahimsa comes from the Sanskrit language and translates to non-violence.

Divya gets her silk from Kusuma Rajaiah’s productions, a government officer from India's Andhra Pradesh state, who decided to apply the theories behind the Ahimsa way of life to the making of silk and found that it was possible to create silk without killing the creatures which created it. It was a religious and spiritual choice, one supported by Mahatma Gandhi, and has a lot more to do with progression than it does profit. 

Traditional silk manufacturing methods involve boiling the cocoons of the silkworm (with the silk worms inside and alive) and then sorting out the threads to be used later. This form of production is horrific and is the opposite of how Ahimsa silk is produced.   

The process of creating silk humanely begins in one of two ways: either the pupa hatches and the leftover cocoon is then used to create silk, or the cocoon may be cut open, achieving much the same result but often saving the resultant material from contamination by urine from the hatching moth. Each cocoon is checked individually to ensure that the moth has escaped before the silk thread is spun. Spinning takes around two months and weaving another month. This is not a material that can be used by fast fashion producers, much like Alpaca, it is a slow fashion fiber that can only be created properly by people who are in the business as compassionate problem solvers rather than callous profit mongers.

Like all good things, there are those who will take advantage of new opportunities. It is important to mention that there are heartless humans producing what they’re calling ‘peace silk’ which hasn’t actually been made peacefully. Their foiled but factual existence has rightfully put PETA and its vegans up in arms over the issue as it is easier to promote abstinence over education - And for the majority of the public, brand or consumer, who are not willing to do their research to learn the circular story about their products nor ask questions about them, PETA and the vegans have made the right move. Us humans tend to brutalize just about everything that can be done beautifully by choosing profit over patience, one of the many reasons fast fashion can’t be trusted and slow fashion with a solid, sentimental and scrupulous circular story is the only way forward.

This particular brand sourcing from this particular peace silk producer to create this particular limited-edition collection of consciously made clothing with a thoughtful and transparent circular story is something I can stand behind and do so firmly. This garment tells a story of India’s rich heritage of handcrafted fabrics and yarn development, it tells a story of compassion for even the tiniest of living organisms, a story of empowerment, a story of protection and stewardship, a story that less is more, and a story which inspires me to no end. 

You can peruse Akira Ming’s conscious creations of limited edition pieces, and support her with your encouragement, dollars, or ambassadorship by visiting her on her website HERE.

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