Sustainable and toxin-free living

Sustainable and toxin-free living

The Sustainable, Traditional Chinese Silk You Didn’t Know You Needed

This post is generously sponsored by Ziran. As always, EcoCult only works with brands we think are doing good things. Support EcoCult’s mission by supporting them! Use code ECOCULT to get 20% off your order, too!

I’m bored with jersey cotton knit. Sustainable fashion world, is that all you’ve got? I just can’t muster up excitement for yet another black sack dress. I need something new in my sartorial life. Something elegant, interesting, yet classic. Enter: Ziran.

Ziran is a new brand that uses xiang yun sha silk, a beautiful and sustainable silk from China. Although it originated over five hundred years ago, xiang yun sha silk is a virtually unknown to outsiders. Ziran founder Kelly Shanahan discovered this special silk while researching her undergraduate honors thesis, and was so taken, she promised herself she would someday use it. Made entirely by hand in one small city at the banks of the Pearl River, every yard of this silk is unique and produced in small batches, 15 yards at a time. No harsh chemicals are used, and the process is completely sustainable, from beginning to end.

The silkworm life cycle in Southern China is a self contained ecosystem unique to the area: fish ponds are created, mulberry trees are planted. The leaves from the mulberry tree feed the silkworms, while the silkworms poop is used to feed the fish. The mud from the fish pond is used as fertilizer for the mulberry trees. To create regular silk, both the cocoon and the silk worm inside are thrown into boiling water, so the thread can be unwound and woven. But for xiang yun sha silk, a small hole is cut in the cocoon, which allows the silkworm to leave, before it is thrown in the boiling water.

After six years and three degrees in Chinese Studies, Fashion Design, and a MBA in Entrepreneurship, Shanahan was ready to make use of this amazing silk, and founded Ziran exactly a year ago, in June of 2016. She is the first to use it in the United States.

And she’s made excellent and creative use of it, with singularly styled kimonos, overalls, blazers, reversible bomber jackets, jumpsuits, dresses, tie blouses, and the pictured petal pants. I wore the pants to a wedding weekend in Key West, and I can report that it is buttery soft, slipping around my legs luxuriously. The pants gave me the feeling of elegance and comfort at the same time. And Ziran claims that it is durable enough to wear every day, which I certainly would not mind!

I paired the pants with a Reformation off-the-shoulder top, ethical sunglasses I got in Stockholm by Vasuma, and three-year-old shoes by Charlotte Stone for this shoot. But I also tried it with a black bodysuit. When I showed my husband that look as a potential for Key West, he shook his head and said, “That is too New York City!” It went from fresh and light to downtown-cool. This versatility and quality means I’ll definitely get 30 wears out of this one.

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