All roads lead to...China?
When it comes to silk, the prevailing theory of it's origins date back about 5,000 years. The 'Yellow Emperor' of China ruled in that region in 3,000 BC. His wife was having a spot of tea one day and by chance a cocoon fell from the mulberry tree into her cup. The cocoon began to unravel and separate it's fibers when exposed to the liquid. Voila! She discovered that the fiber could be loomed and then woven into textiles! The cultivation of silkworms began and is now known as 'sericulture'. For centuries the world did not know how china produced this beautifully delicate fabric. Eventually the secret made it's way out of China and other countries began practicing sericulture in order to produce their own silks.
(Vintage Japanese Woven silk c.1960's)
Silk was reserved for royalty at first. As production grew and more people were capable of creating the fabric it was made available to common people which finally led to trade and commerce.
The original trade route called 'The Silk Road' was expanded during the Han Dynasty and extended across China from the east, heading west across India, Persia, towards Egypt. The silk trade was lucrative for China. Lucrative enough for the Great Wall to be extended in order to protect silk and other trade products.
Today China produces in excess of 142,000 Metric Tons of silk each year. By far China produces the largest amount of raw silk, followed by India. That raw silk is sold and traded to mills around the world that will then dye it. Once it is dyed it can then be reeled onto cones, threaded onto a loom, and woven into fabric.
No doubt you're wondering who produces the best silk fabrics? That is a tough one to answer, and if I did it wouldn't be fair to other mills. Each mill is different and can produce it's own stunning fabrics! I liken the silk textile production industry to the coffee industry. It is strikingly similar in many ways. They both begin with legends of origin. They both go through a very lengthy process on the way to their final result and each manufacturer/maker does things their own way.
That being said...i don't drink generic brand coffee. Why not? It is mass produced, forcing the quality level to drop so that the maker can produce higher quantities at a quicker pace and make more money. It's the same with silk. Yes, China produces the most raw silk, but there are other countries with mills that focus on quality over quantity.
Custom, or 'bespoke' ties do cost more than the mass-produced ties. As a Tie-maker I can say that each tie I make is cut out one at a time. Each lining is cut one at a time, and the tie is hand-stitched, I even hand-fold my own labels. There is no point in taking shortcuts to get more ties out of a yard of fabric because if you do it shows in the final product's overall quality. I look for silk mills that have the same focus as myself, quality over quantity, and I get silks from them. They put time and effort into working on patterns and experimenting with different weave structures, honing their craft instead of mass-producing basics.
Whether it's Italian Silk, English Silk, or Asian Silk, it's a good bet that the raw material did come from China in the first place.