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Fashion: Golden Madagascan Spider Silk Cape at the V&A

Madagascan Silk [Madagascar]   

Godley Peers - Golden Spider Web Cape

I wouldn’t call this a daydream, just something I found quite fascinating if not a little weird…

If the thought of hundreds of spiders crawling about creeps you out, what more wearing a garment spun from their silk. I came across several web articles trending the very thing a few days back but paid them no mind beyond a quick note of the headlines until by coincidence a search for ‘Madagascan Silk’ brought them up again causing me to read on in-depth. The week of Monday 23rd January saw a cape handwoven from the silk of more than a million spiders go on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, along with a four-metre long piece of woven brocaded fabric.

Spider Silk Cape

[Image credits: Golden Spider Silk Cape – 
top, Victoria and Albert Museum; bottom, Getty Images via Daily Mail]

When I look at the garment I am amazed at how heavy it looks given how fine spider webs are in general. It took around eight years to develop and construct the items which are made from the silk of 1.2 million female Golden Orb Weaver Spiders, a species native to the mountains Madagascar. The golden yellow colour comes from the natural colour of the silk itself, and a closer look at the intricate embroidery detailing reveals images of the spiders. The fabrics were made by artist Simon Peers, an Englishman living in Madagascar and fashion designer Nicholas Godley, an American who also lives on the island. The technique of extracting the silk used a revived process dating back more than a century ago, and is one that sees the spiders being collected from their webs every morning by trained handlers, who then use a hand-powered machine to extract the silk from them by pulling the strands of the spider’s multiple spinnerets; that’s got to be fiddly if not painful, however, the spiders are said to be returned to the wild at the end of each day unharmed. The items are the only known large textiles to be made of spider silk, the last known attempts to weave with spider silk were in 1900 for a Parisian exhibition, but no samples remain. First exhibited in 2009 at the Natural History Museum in New York, where it broke visitor number records for a single exhibit, the Cape is now on display in the V&A’s Studio Gallery until 5 June 2012.

…fascinating…Additional details:
To read an article on the display visit: www.independent.co.uk; and

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