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Silkworm fashion collection creates a statement about clothing cruelty

A fashion design undergraduate 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 and his designs
Luoyuan Zhang with his designs
Picture credit: Anson Shen

Silkworm fashion collection creates 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, writes journalism student Azucena Mugnier.

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 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 work will take place on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 May. Luoyuan’s fashion concepts can also be seen on his Instagram account: @luoyuan_zhang.

His collection was 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.

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

Designs by Luoyuan Zhang
Designs by Luoyuan Zhang
Picture credit: Anson Shen

“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.

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.”

  • Notes for editors

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    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens. The Research Excellence Framework (2021) classed 83% of NTU’s research activity as either world-leading or internationally excellent. 86% of NTU’s research impact was assessed to be either world-leading or internationally excellent. NTU was awarded The Times and The Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2023 and ranked second best university in the UK in the Uni Compare Top 100 rankings (2021/2022). It was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards), University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards). NTU is the 5th largest UK institution by student numbers, with approximately 40,000 students and more than 4,400 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 7,000 and an NTU community representing over 160 countries. Since 2000, NTU has invested £570 million in tools, technology, buildings and facilities. NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2021 UCAS UG acceptance data). It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was the first UK university to sign the Social Mobility Pledge. NTU is ranked 2nd most sustainable university in the world in the 2022 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities).

Published on 19 May 2023
  • Category: Press office; School of Art & Design