Silk Memory. The post-industrial heritage of the Zurich silk industry

Unlike many other Swiss luxury industries, the Zurich silk industry has not survived. While in the past few decades other long-established producers of luxuries took off and conquered new international markets, deindustrialization affected all Zurich silk manufacturers, the last two weaving mills closing their gates in 2012. This paper will look at the role of material sources in this process. Despite the fact that many Zurich silk manufacturers had textile archives dating back to the 19th century, attempts to capitalise on them failed. The paper will analyse the reasons for this failure, which included the absence of brands and practical obstacles in dealing with large and unstructured textile archives. The paper will then analyse the efforts made in the post-industrial phase of the industry. In the context of a research project safeguarding the archives, selections of the latter were digitalized and put online for research, teaching and in order to serve as a source of inspiration for new designs (www.silkmemory.ch) . Comparing these efforts to the use of material sources in surviving luxury brands, the paper will be able to differentiate between marketing-driven efforts to boost sales and non-commercial uses of industrial heritage made possible in a post-industrial phase.

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