The popularity of silk in the ahimsa espousing Hindu-Buddhist cultures of Asia is one of those head-scratching contradictions the region throws up from time to time.

After all, the silk extraction process involves boiling the poor mulberry worms alive. In India,¬†efforts have been made in recent years to produce an ahimsa silk, which entails waiting for the mulberry worm to mature into a moth before getting at the cocoon. And in Myanmar and Cambodia, weavers have turned to a more ancient kind of textile that doesn’t involve mulberry at all: lotus silk.

Field to fashion: (top L-R) fields of lotuses; collecting the stems, removing the sticky fibre in the stems; (bottom L-R) lotus fibre; weaving loom; finished textile.

Producing a textile out of lotus fibres is an extremely labor-intensive process, requiring almost two months to produce the fabric to make up a single jacket. As you can imagine the end product is very expensive.

But then, instead of paying several thousand dollars for a brand name product that is probably made in a Chinese factory anyway, why not put the same money to better use in supporting a sustainable, ecologically-sound product that provides a dignified livelihood to women in these developing economies?