Like a good fairy tale, it started with a Princess and a cup of tea
Princess Leizu, 14 year-old wife of the Yellow Emperor, was sitting in her garden some five and a half thousand years ago, when a cocoon fell from a nearby mulberry tree into her cup of hot tea and unravelled itself. She gathered the resulting thread and asked one of her ladies-in-waiting to weave it. And thus, silk was born.
The history of silk is long and exciting, from its jealously protected status in Ancient China, its gradual escape to the world outside the Empire and to the eventual creation of an expanding and complex global trading system, across several continents, that was The Silk Road. This route became the main trading artery for goods between Asia and Europe. Earlier Fox & Chave journals (October 2018) cover this fascinating history in more detail.
The natural attractions and benefits of silk were recognised early, hence the fierce protectionism of the first three centuries. Its beauty, luxuriant feel, translucent colours and breathability made silk a symbol of royalty, wealth and power and a precious commodity. Sericulture was a skill to be guarded, literally on pain of death.
Shakespeare Love Silk Scarf
The dazzling beauty of silk is down to the triangular prism structure of the fibre itself which refracts light at different angles. Unlike many other fibres, once ‘degummed’, silk threads are smooth and absorb dyes well. The combination of the light refraction and intense colours give that luminosity that makes silk so special. But silk has amazing natural properties beyond its visual appeal.
One such prized quality is the drape of silk, especially the heavier forms like satin, the way it hangs and clings, a gift to fashion designers and especially beloved of wedding dress creators. It is also the strongest of natural fibres and as such has been widely used for parachutes. Resourceful WW2 brides recycled parachutes to make very elegant wedding dresses!
Silk has temperature regulating properties, an ability to keep the wearer cool in hot weather, by absorbing moisture from the skin and releasing it into the air, and equally to keep the wearer warm in cold weather.
Bees & Blossom Silk Scarf
Silk is also hypoallergenic and wards off some of our most common allergens like fungus, mildew and dust mites. It is extremely rare for anyone to have any allergy to silk.
Addressing environmental concerns, the mulberry tree on which the silkworms feed, requires far less water and space than cotton and does not need pesticides. Silk itself is biodegradable, breaking down in landfill over a five-year period, compared to the 200 years that polyester takes to decompose. It is even compostable and can be turned into mulch.
In beauty terms, silk is protective of skin and hair, with its soft fibres and moisture locking qualities. Silk pillowcases are great for complexions and silk sleep masks won’t harm the delicate skin around the eyes. A silk headscarf, headband or scrunchie is ideal for avoiding damage to hair. See the beautiful Fox & Chave collection of headbands and scrunchies. Also try wrapping your head of wet hair in silk and leave it to dry naturally – the results rival an expensive conditioner!
Deco Butterfly Yellow Silk Scrunchie
On a practical level, silk is light, ideal for travel or for posting a gift to a special friend. Silk scarves pack into nothing and are an easy trick for styling variations. Specifically, silk scarves offer great flexibility – head cover, neck wraps, headbands, wrist bands, handbag embellishments, belts, hat decorations, sarongs … Accessorise your capsule wardrobe with two or three different scarves and create completely different looks to take you through a short trip, with only light hand luggage.
What a clever creation is silk! Beautiful, elegant, flattering, protective, strong, hypoallergenic, compostable, biodegradable. No wonder Chinese Emperors tried to keep it a secret. Luckily for you, we don’t!
Fox & Chave shouts the beauty of silk from the rooftops, our luscious colours and patterns, our different types and weights of silk, our designs inspired by nature and the arts, our fine reproduction and our hand-rolled hems. Why would we not share these qualities and hope that you will be tempted to treat yourselves and give your friends the gift of silk?
Morris Willow Boughs Silk Tie