It took the silk from 1.2 million of these spiders, and eight years to create!
The hand-woven textiles are naturally golden in color, and the cape was made by Simon Peers, an Englishman who has lived in Madagascar for more than twenty years, and Nicholas Godley, an American who has also worked for many years in Madagascar.
Inspired by 19th century accounts and illustrations, these two men started experimenting with spider silk in 2004 to see if they could revive this forgotten art, which hasn't been used in more than a century.
To create the textiles, spiders are collected each morning and harnessed in specially conceived silking contraptions. Trained handlers extract the silk from 24 spiders at a time. The spiders are then returned to the wild at the end of each day.
It took 80 people to collect all the silk from the 1.2 million spiders to create the brocade textile.
After silking, the silk was taken on cones to a silk weaving workshop where skilled weavers have mastered the special tensile properties of the silk. In the silk, the main weave is of 96 strands, the lining 48 strands, and a large part of the embroidery is made using unspun 24 strand silk.
On average, 23,000 spiders yield around one ounce of silk. So it's understandable how rare and precious these textiles are, and I love how they paid homage to the spiders by embroidering them on the cape!
The Golden Orb spider! I can't say I'm so fond of these animals myself, at least not when it comes to handling them, when one needs to be taken out of the house for example...But if you take away the creepiness the way they look produces in so many people (including me) I find spiders so fascinating! It's amazing what they can do! And I could never kill one on purpose! If I find one inside, I take it outside - unharmed...Or, actually, I usually ask someone else to do this for me. But still...
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian