Cloting created by silkworms at NTU picture credit Anson Shen

Student grows silkworms to create a statement about clothing cruelty

A fashion student grew his own silkworms as inspiration for a clothing collection that aims to raise awareness about the ‘cruel’ way in which silk is made.

Luoyuan Zhang, 23, collected around 100 silkworm eggs in his native China and grew them for two months as part of his research for a catwalk collection to raise awareness of the silk-making process.

The Nottingham Trent University (NTU) undergraduate wanted to show that silkworms are killed in their cocoons with boiling water in order to harvest their ultra-soft fibres which are then turned into the luxury material.

“Many people who enjoy silk do not realise that it is made in a very cruel way,”

said Luoyuan, who is studying fashion design at the Nottingham School and Art & Design.

“My collection is a message to people who wear silk, so that they can realise that silkworms have been killed in their cocoons in order to make these products.”

Luoyuan’s designs have been made from second-hand silk taken from two used duvets and combined with sustainable materials including paper, mulberry tree branches to help shape the garments, and biocomposite fabrics from mulberry fruits.

His collections include three outfits; a sculptural dress, a skirt and top; and a separate dress. He also created two hats and four pairs of shoes.

“For this collection, I found inspiration from the cocoons, showing the endlessness of life and the greatness of nature,”

said Luoyuan.

“Based on the concept of ‘respect for ecology and nature’, the collection fuses nature and fashion craftsmanship from the development of the fabrics to the production of the garments, allowing the raw materials to be presented in the most natural way.

“This collection satirises people who kill silkworms in their cocoons to get silk fabrics, garments and other products.”

In the interests of sustainability, Luoyuan used a combination of zero-waste piece cutting and one-piece cutting methods to use all the fabric.

His designs are set to go on show for the 2023 Nottingham Trent University art and design Student Showcase, which is one of the UK’s largest public displays of graduating art and design talent. A catwalk show including Luoyuan’s designs will take place on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 May. Luoyuan’s designs can also be seen in his Instagram account: @luoyuan_zhang.

Emma Prince, course leader for Fashion Design at Nottingham Trent University, said:

“Luoyuan has shown how fashion design can be used to make a political statement and raise awareness of important issues.

“His sculptural concept designs feature beautiful aesthetic, but come with a bold message about the methods which are used in order to make a luxury material like silk.”

Posted on 19 May 2023

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Jack Woolley