The first ever spider silk cape shown in London museum

Guest Blogger

By Pamela Lee – serving the Arty Type’s for Couch Design News!

The V&A have recently unveiled an extraordinary new reference to myths and fairy tales.

The myths of silken spider thread clothing date back for hundreds of years: a gift for Queen Victoria of a pair of spider silk bloomers or of how a delicate yet spectacularly long thread found its way into the stocking of Empress Josephine. These stories suggested a sustainable way to harvest spider thread many years ago but this January the V&A unveiled the first ever spider silk cape.

The cape is the result of 8 years of dedication by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, a textile artist and a designer-entrepreneur respectively, and the thread over 1.2 million spiders. “Over the last 300 years the very few eccentric who has tried it have fallen by the wayside,” says Peers so for them it has been as much about the challenge of creating something unprecedented and unique than fashioning beautiful piece of clothing or design.

Inspired by old drawings of contraptions invented to try and ‘silk’ spiders in Madagascar – where the project was realized, the team started ‘silking’ spiders in 2004 and by November 2008 the elusive silk became a reality. Peers calculates that the weaving, embroidery and appliqué of the cape involved 6,000 as well as the 1.2 million spiders.

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The Golden Thread is an entirely natural fabric produced from the Golden Orb Spider in Madagascar. The spiders are collected individually in the wild, they produce between thirty and fifty meters of thread, which takes about 15 minutes and then they are released back to nature.

The result, is a beautiful shimmering gold brocaded cape – embellished with appliqués of spiders scuttling over flowers. The piece is a fantastical reference to so many myths and nursery rhymes and a quirky reference to how such a little creature that strikes terror into so many girl’s hearts can create something so beautiful – little miss mufti would have had quite a surprise. Peers points out that it also lends to the imagination the idea of the spider superhero. It is incredible how a creature so small can create something so unique and impressive.

The cape is not about fashion, it is about ‘the labor of love’ and creating something new. After taking 8 years to complete it is never going to be a commercial proposition but it is an interesting nod towards the trend in both design and fashion in searching for sustainability and new fabrics.

It is an incredible feat of ingenuity, engineering, craft, art, fashion and design. ‘Golden Spider Silk ‘ is on public display in the V&A until June 5.