Contained in the machine-crammed Mouhtarides manufacturing facility close to the Greek-Turkish border, Ioanna Pistola deftly spins a silk thread in a loom, ignoring the deafening noise round her.
“I have been working on this corridor for 20 years,” the middle-aged weaver shouts above the din.
The dormant, remoted city of Soufli has been a key centre for Greek silk manufacturing for the reason that 19th century.
This was additionally the primary space in Europe to rear silkworms after they have been smuggled by Byzantine monks out of India within the sixth century AD.
Silk, a lot of it selfmade, has sustained the city of round 4,000 inhabitants for many years, though the variety of factories has fallen.
Now although, say the city’s final two lively producers, silk is once more de rigueur on the world’s most prestigious catwalks, and demand from designers for the luxurious material is on the up.
“Penetrate into the world of style, that is what Soufli is attempting to do… there isn’t any high fashion with out silk these days,” says Yiorgos Tsiakiris, proprietor of the manufacturing facility that bears his identify.
“The world’s nice benefit is its lengthy expertise (with sericulture)… That is the place silk was first produced in Europe… we must always exploit this benefit,” he provides.
His manufacturing web site isn’t removed from the Mouhtarides manufacturing facility, the place advertising and marketing supervisor Despina Bakarou additionally talks of concerted motion to take advantage of present traits.
“Silk is making a comeback. Trend designers are asking for it. We try to maximise the amount and high quality of our manufacturing,” she says.
– Drawing on expertise –
Silk has performed a task within the household historical past of virtually everybody who originates from Soufli.
“Each household grew silk,” says Matina Lekka, an area pensioner, whose mom labored on the Givre manufacturing facility earlier than it closed within the 1960s.
In its heyday, the manufacturing facility, based by two Jewish brothers, Bohor and Eliezer Givre, exported silk so far as the French cities of Lyon and Bordeaux.
However after World Conflict II, textile makers turned to cheaper artificial supplies corresponding to nylon, and the realm’s once-prided infrastructure fell into disuse.
An additional blow got here on the finish of the 1990s, with the opening up of the silk market.
The city’s two factories at the moment export silk garments and handicrafts to Bulgaria, Slovakia and Cyprus, and fulfil design orders from British stylists.
– China leaves a gap –
Whereas the 2 factories produce a small quantity of silk themselves, most of what they use to make their gadgets comes from China.
Now, says Tsiakiris, there’s a actual alternative for European sericulture to bounce again amid China’s growing industrialisation, which has led to a decline in its rurally-based silk manufacturing.
“There may be nice demand for silk. And there’s a scarcity… China in recent times has given up hundreds of hectares of mulberry timber, and individuals are shifting out of rural areas to the cities,” he stated.
Soufli is surrounded by 300 hectares (741 acres) of mulberry timber — the leaves of that are eaten by the silkworms –, offering an abundance of a uncooked materials ready for revival.
Every silkworm cocoon can yield a steady silk strand of as much as 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) lengthy.
“There are additionally hundreds of mulberry timber nonetheless within the space, it is a foundation to construct on,” says Tsiakiris.
With sufficient timber, a dependable crop of silkworms can emerge in about three years, he notes.
“There are European traders standing by, able to spend as much as 20 million euros ($23 million) right here,” he provides, declining to expose names.
“There may be main curiosity, these individuals are anxious about the way forward for sericulture in China,” the manufacturing facility proprietor tells AFP.
– Scaling up –
To make it large, the city additionally wants an industrial-size silk reeling machine.
The Hermes Basis, the general public profit arm of the worldwide luxurious model, lately financed the acquisition of a small reeling unit however it’s inadequate to cowl mass manufacturing.
Consequently, the cocoons have to be despatched to Italy for processing.
Chinese language traders are additionally exhibiting an curiosity. A gaggle visited the realm in June alongside Greek Improvement Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas.
With 4 native museums already devoted to the silk business, the city can also be ripe for additional growth as a tourism vacation spot.
The city municipality plans to renovate an outdated mansion for use as a hostel and an space to display how silkworms are raised.
© 2018 AFP