Of great importance for the Turkish textile industry, Bursa silk gets ready to take the stage again. The geographical indication granted by the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office in 2019 has turned Bursa silk into a global brand.
Bursa still home to sericulture
The history of silkworm breeding, in other words the first stage of sericulture, in Bursa dates back to the end of the Byzantine period when the Ottomans took control of the silk trade in the city. Silk weaving used to play a significant role in Anatolia, and especially Bursa silk had proven itself in the global market with its top quality. However, due to the rise of labor costs in Türkiye in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 1991, the silk carpet merchants of Hereke and Kayseri turned first to China, and then to Uzbekistan. In time, the silk sector in Bursa almost faded into extinction. However, fortunately, the projects and initiatives recently put forth by the Bursa Metropolitan Municipality have started to turn the tide.
Silk has always been treated as a critical component for the global textile sector.
Silk, nature’s gift to humanity
Embraced by the textile, fashion and carpet industries as a peerless raw material used in fashion fabrics and yarn production, silk has always been treated as a critical component for the global textile sector. In addition to its use in the rug and carpet industry, silk, as a natural and biodegradable fiber, is widely used also in the organic textile industry, either in the form of apparel or home textile, and in the medical industry in the form of surgical suture.
Since the use of organic silk contributes to the preservation of soil and water quality through avoiding the use of toxic chemical pesticides, eco-friendly textile and clothing brands have already tended towards sourcing providers that are well aware of this environmental concern.
From cocoon to fabric
Organized by the Bursa Metropolitan Municipality with a view to showcasing Bursa silk to the global players in the silk industry, the 3rd International Silk Festival from Cocoon to Fabric was held in Bursa on September 1 – 4, 2022, with the participation of all relevant parties willing to learn more about Bursa silk. During the festival, international visitors, including silk artists from Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as Turkish silk artists found the chance to share their perspectives with sector representatives including silk vendors and sourcing partners. In addition to the silk fabric weaving workshop and the conventional silk carpet weaving workshop, the event also offered its visitors the opportunity to see onsite how silk is produced from cocoon. The silk spinning workshop that was used by the Ottomans 680 years ago, was also on display for visitors. Local people showed great interest in the festival where they had the chance to participate in various workshops conducted by masters of silk.
The good old days to come back soon
Below is an inspiring story of the efforts made to revitalize the silk of Bursa, which is featured in UNESCO’s living cities list with its silk products. The words of Mehmet Ünal, Production Director and Project Coordinator at Umurbey Silk Production and Design Center of Bursa Metropolitan Municipality, are testament to the dedication of local people in revitalizing the silk farming and silk weaving industries in the city and its nearby villages.
The Bursa Silk Revival Project, kicked off by Bursa Metropolitan Municipality in 2013 in an effort to let Bursa silk regain its glorious position, has well accomplished its goal of transferring a memory that dates back to more than 75 years to younger generations.
Revitalizing silk production and weaving
First of all, the Bursa Silk Revival Project, kicked off by Bursa Metropolitan Municipality in 2013 in an effort to let Bursa silk regain its glorious position, has well accomplished its goal of transferring a memory that dates back to more than 75 years to younger generations. Within the scope of the project, the following milestones have been achieved so far:
· Abandoned mulberry gardens in Bursa and its surroundings have been restored
· New mulberry gardens have been formed in regions far from crop-dusting areas.
· The historical Muradiye Silk Factory, which had been founded in 1790 as the first silk factory of the Ottoman Empire, has been reopened.
· Umurbey Silk Production and Design Center, which had been founded in 1810, has been rebuilt.
· Abandoned schools in the 16 villages around the factories have been identified, and then renovated with the support of the Ministry of National Education.
· Two of these schools have been converted into silk fabric workshops and four into silk carpet workshops.
· Silk carpet weaving training has been provided to 2,600 people.
· Silk fabric weaving training has been provided to 760 people.
· A total of 63 silk masters and some 50 semi-qualified workers have been raised.
· Now, there are 16 state artists, registered to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, working at Umurbey Silk Production and Design Center. Prior to the project, there were no silk masters from younger generations.
Bursa Metropolitan Municipality initiated the Surgical Suture Project in 2017, in coordination with Uludağ University and TÜBİTAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye). While 60 percent of the project is already completed, the next step is to proceed with human tests
Indigenous production of surgical suture
Secondly, with a view to eliminating Türkiye’s foreign dependency in surgical thread, Bursa Metropolitan Municipality initiated the Surgical Suture Project in 2017, in coordination with Uludağ University and TÜBİTAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye). While 60 percent of the project is already completed, the next step is to proceed with human tests and get the related licenses and patents for the surgical sutures to be manufactured. Once the project is finalized, Türkiye will have its own surgical suture factory, and Bursa silk will turn into a strategic product, leading to the protection of silk assets in Türkiye.
Repositioning Hereke silk carpets
Just as importantly, Bursa Metropolitan Municipality has launched a number of projects aimed at repositioning the world renown Hereke silk carpets in a way that they regain their competitive power in the global silk market. Accordingly, various efforts have been put forth to enable that Hereke silk carpets are woven in the region again, as in the past. The high quality of Hereke silk carpets comes from the fact that they are purely made of Bursa silk, which was exempt from tax in Europe for long years during the Ottoman times.
Thanks to all these efforts and initiatives, the textile and ready-to-wear industry as well as the rug and carpet sector of Türkiye have found the chance to give more place to Bursa silk in their products. Increased use of this precious heritage by Turkish vendors will result in a broader range of goods with higher added value, helping them expand their export markets even more.