August 27, 2023

Weaving fashion and ethics : a women’s cooperative for cruelty-free and sustainable silk

Ekodoku is a women’s social cooperative in Türkiye which has taken a stand against violent and unsustainable silk production. The success of their fashionable shawls are a testament that sustainable and ethical products can thrive in today’s markets.

While being one of the most coveted materials in the world, the mainstream method of silk production is environmentally taxing and relies on inhumane practices. A group of women in Türkiye has taken a stand against this outdated method and has started producing silk in a sustainable and humanised way. Established in Ankara in 2021, ‘Ekodoku Sustainable Living Cooperative’ is a women’s social cooperative which creates sustainable textiles through traditional weaving. 

At the heart of the cooperative is a commitment to the circular economy approach, favouring a sustainable and compassionate business model. Mainstream silk production extracts the silk thread from the silk-moth’s cocoons while the pupae (maturing silk-worm) is still inside it. This method called ‘degumming’, boils or gases the pupae in their cocoons.  Firmly opposed to this violent method, Ekodoku has chosen to adopt a silk production method called “Peace Silk”, which transforms the empty cocoons left behind by the silk moths into silk.  

“The silk yarn is obtained through a method which respects life-cycles, that does not include violence, and hurts neither humans nor nature”, describes Esra Üzel Yüncüler, President of Ekodoku Sustainable Living Cooperative. This ethical silk yarn is produced at a farm in Hatay, which is the family farm of the director of production and co-founder of the cooperative, Emel Duman. From this yarn, they produce high-quality and fashionable shawls in a variety of colours. 

In the face of fierce competition from global markets, establishing a sustainable and ethical business is a challenging process. To support the establishment of Ekodoku, the team applied to SPARK ‘Women in Exports’ initiative, as part of its Economic Resilience Through COVID-19 programme, funded by the Qatar Fund For Development. ‘Women in Exports’ is a collaboration between SPARK and Innovation 4 Development (I4D) aimed at supporting 12 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Türkiye, by providing them with access to market services. 

Through group sessions, the 12 SMEs, including Ekodoku, received 38 hours of e-export coaching as well as various training sessions on green product development. At the outcome of the training, the participants were supported in the digitalisation of their businesses and were integrated into the TurkishSouq e-export platform. Additionally, the programme provided product photo shooting and banner shooting in order for the SMEs to launch their profile on TurkishSouq


Despite the challenges of competing against more profitable methods of silk production, the cooperative boasts 23 committed members and has successfully established itself in online markets. Aycan Göne, an Ekodoku member, believes that “as long as we stand in solidarity with each other, our production power and share in the market will keep growing”.

Ekodoku’s commitment to preserving the planet goes beyond the production of compassionate and green fashion. The women’s cooperative has been active in finding and preserving the seeds of a native silkworm called Hatay Yellow, which was previously thought to be extinct. The members believe in protecting the planet for the generations to come and have set the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the guiding principles for Ekodoku’s journey.