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Silk made from agave
Agave is originally from Mexico and grows in arid regions – Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Silk made from agave

21/09/2019
14:37
Mexico City
Perla Sánchez
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The elaboration of agave silk is complemented by the production of vegetable dyes, giving the final product an added ecologic and aesthetic value

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In Morocco, craftsmen created an extraordinary invention that consists in the use of agave fibers, a plant originally from Mexico that grows in arid regions. It is common to find this plant in the North of our country and in the south of the U.S. It is estimated that this species started to diversify 12 million years ago, so there are over 300 kinds of agave.

Agave has arrived in Morocco and is grown in the Sahara desert to produce silk, a textile called agave silk or sabra and is very similar to traditional silk since it is smooth, shiny, and very strong. Agave plants grow in different countries of Africa and Asia and are well known and used for the elaboration of extremely resistant textiles, used for crafts and in the fashion industry.

Veils, dresses, blankets, cushions, rugs, and ornaments are made with this fabric. Agave silk fulfills all the requirements of tissues made from vegetable fibers. It is a completely functional material because of its strength, flexibility, and elasticity; it also has a high degree of absorption and it is almost wrinkle-free.
 

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The silk is made in a textile workshop in the city of Fez, Morocco, a 100% vegetable material made of agave fibers. It is completely ecologic, biodegradable, and it generates no allergies.

Abdel Hakam comments that “agave can be grown with biologic methods, adapting to the requests of environmentally aware clients and in very arid lands. In addition, the production of agave silk is framed in zero waste, since the clothes made from it can be used as ecologic fertilizers after its use.”

The process
The production of the textile from agave is completely artisanal and has been the same in Morocco for centuries: The agave leaves are crushed and cleaned from all green residues. Then, the fibers are separated, washed, and brushed to separate white strands, which can be dyed later.
 

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The manufacture of the textiles is done in workshops with small looms. This activity is complemented by the production of vegetable dyes, giving the product an added ecologic and aesthetic value.

Nowadays
This vegetable silk is catching the interest of the high-quality fashion world for being an environmentally aware alternative compared to silk made with silkworms. The elaboration of agave silk is an example of “knowing how to do a traditional [job],” still used by producers and artisans and that calls the attention of the most demanding clients and of the most advanced trends for a sustainable world.

Abdel asserts that “agave silk is changing fashion and it could save the lives of millions of animals.” He asserts that his most interested clients are tourists who care for the environment as well as vegans.
 

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