Hemp is proving to be the most versatile fabric compared to others such as cotton. This millenary crop has been previously adapted to hundreds of different needs that can benefit from its potential, as well as its low cost and its biodegradable properties.
We have had the chance in other occasions of verifying how hemp is useful and efficient playing various roles in the production of paper, bioplastics, materials for the car industry or rechargeable batteries for electric models.
The textile is one of the industries with the longest tradition in utilizing hemp’s raw material. Following the regulation of cannabis in many places around the world, big fashion brands have printed pro-marijuana slogans on t-shirts and on some of their boldest designs. Some of them have more serious intentions that go beyond the mere provocation and are pushing the use of the “standard fibre of the world”, as it is known.
Their message is oriented towards a sustainable industry and products that could help improve the quality of life on the planet. These companies, united in the Slow Fashion movement, have launched different clothes made with sustainable fabrics. And they love hemp.
The term was coined by Kate Fletcher, professor of Sustainability, Design and Fashion in the Centre for Sustainable Fashion in London, in 2007. Slow Fashion tries to portray itself as the antithesis of fast fashion or industrialised fashion, promoting transparency in the processes of production, traceability of clothing items and a responsible use of natural resources. This movement gained momentum after the tragedy that took place in Bangladesh in 2013, when a factory owned by the multinational Inditex collapsed, killing more than 1.100 people. The fact that the victims worked with no rights or safety measures made some people reflect and choose to buy clothes from fair trade and second-hand stores.
Slow Fashion philosophy, opposed to industrial mega-production, defends the responsible use of clothes, raising awareness among buyers of the impact that mass production entails. Mass production also uses harmful chemical products in the washing and dying processes. The resulting waste also causes severe damage to the ecosystem.
The materials endorsed by Slow Fashion are usually traditional products. Obtaining these products reduces the ecological footprint to the minimum and its use is environmental-friendly. Hemp, being a sustainable fabric, versatile and biodegradable, leads the list. Among the features of hemp-derived fabrics we find their legendary stability and durability. Not in vain the sails that pushed the three caravels of Cristóbal Colón were made using these materials.
The hemp fabric absorbs humidity better than cotton and its thermal capacity makes it fresher in the summer and warmer in the winter. The fabrics obtained from it can be of high resistance, thin, or designed for work, which makes them ideal for producing socks, canvas shoes, espadrilles, bags, rugs and an endless list of textile products. Moreover, it is fit for people with sensitive skin because of its ecological cultivation and treatment.
Hemp as a textile fabric has been one of the most largely exploited in history, extended throughout the world until the early XX century, when cannabis prohibition came to be. Some claim that the creation of plastic products as substitutes, derived from oil, meant the foundation of a lobby that had great influence in decision making, especially in the USA.
Hemp plantations disappeared. They would not come back until the year 2000. A year before, the Hemp Trading Company was established in London, along with a company that specialized in ecologic clothing. This company has spearheaded the use of hemp ever since, and it’s one of ten companies in the UK awarded for ethical and responsible consumption.
The first Levi Strauss jeans were produced with hemp, starting a long relationship with the denim fabric. This company is working nowadays in the launching of their Levi’s Spring/Summer Wellthread x Outerknown collection, in which they use hemp treated to resemble cotton.
Other well-known companies such as Armani, Gucci, Stella McCartney or Calvin Klein use hemp in their designs. Vans and Adidas are also jumping on the wagon of sustainable fashion for their shoes and sneakers.
Nevertheless, these famous companies don’t match the specialization in this fabric that others achieve, such as Tuffery or Cannabis Jeans in denim production, Nomads Hemp Wear in adventure clothing or textile labels like Hempy’s, Hoodland, Jungmaven, Seeker, Reactor and others, all of them focused on “Street wear” and a young audience.