High Fashion: Hemp Textiles are Changing the Face of Fashion

Once, not long ago, the mention of “hemp T-shirts” would have evoked images of coarse smocks from patchouli-scented shops—and even elicited giggles from fashion folks.

A lot can change in a short time.

These days, you’d have to be living under a rock (in a state without legalization) to miss that cannabis is having a moment. And that’s cannabis in all its many forms. Everyone from young adults to octogenarians are giving it a try, ingesting THC gummies for sleep and tinctures for pain; slathering on CBD balms for sore muscles and face serums to promote healthy skin.

It’s not surprising then that the apparel industry would be embracing it too. And it most certainly is on board: In fact, the global hemp clothing market was valued at $2.29 billion in 2021, according to an Allied Market Research report, and is expected to grow to $23.02 billion by 2031.

Still, the use of hemp for textiles is not just about what’s on trend. It’s a super smart environmental and practical choice, as the crop has a lower carbon footprint than other fabric bases and, in material form, is known for its ability to maintain its shape and hold dyes.

That’s surely what’s driven some of the most coveted lines across the country—from bold New York-based brand, Mara Hoffman, to aspirational California barefoot luxury line, Jenni Kayne—to take notice and jump on the bandwagon. Favorite denim designers have gotten into the game, too, from classic Levi’s to “mindful fashion” line RE/DONE, as have performance brands like Patagonia, REI Co-op and Prana.

These companies have one connective concept in mind: sustainability—Of the planet and their collections. So, for reasons that range from wearability to ecology, fashion is embracing hemp, shifting its rep from crunchy to cool.

Hemp To Be Square

So, what makes hemp so desirable?

First of all, yes, the hemp in question—that very one that’s the basis for your favorite sheer tee—is made from a varietal of that same cannabis sativa plant known for giving potheads a heady high. But, according to Jody McGinness, executive director of The Hemp Industries Association, according to a 2018 legal definition, this version that’s used for industrial purposes like food and fiber must involve varieties of the plant that have less than .03% Delta 9 THC. “It was creating that federal definition of hemp (as distinct from marijuana),” he says, “that ‘legalized’ commercial hemp growing in the U.S.”

And the hemp plant is, apparently, very ecological, which is no small thing for the apparel industry which—especially with the advent of fast and disposable fashion—has struggled with bad press around waste, pollution, overconsumption, poor working conditions and more. Robert Jungmann, founder of coveted T-shirt line, Jungmaven, has understood the benefits of hemp for a long time. In fact, he not only pioneered its use in mainstream fashion, elevating its style, but he also founded his entire collection around it. (Those who live in pursuit of the perfect tee will undoubtedly know the line.)

He originally became intrigued by the ways in which growing hemp could mitigate clear-cutting. (That’s an extreme logging method that involves harvesting and replacing natural forests with man-made ones that have incongruent ecosystems and is responsible, according to Sierra Club, for decimating over one million acres in California since 1997.) The more he learned, the more intrigued he became.

As it turns out, the hemp plant is environmentally sound on several different levels. For one thing, it absorbs carbon dioxide, so it actually helps alleviate pollution. In other words, it’s not only neutral—it’s beneficial for the air we breathe. Also, as Jungmann explains, it’s incredibly versatile. “It regenerates the soil, it requires minimal water and no pesticides to grow,” he says. “It is natural and nontoxic.” Essentially, it reduces water pollution, erosion, carbon and more, combatting the agricultural fallout that contributes to climate change.

Design Within Reach

On top of all that, hemp turns out to be top-notch when it comes to durability, as well. That may not sound like a sexy word, especially in the high-end style space, but one of the major knocks on the fashion industry in recent years has been the sheer magnitude of what is produced, purchased and then discarded. Creating pieces that hold their shape and color keeps consumers from having to buy, wear, then trash their clothing at that same feverish rate. “Hemp just so happens to create a unique fiber for apparel,” says Jungmann, who notes one simply needs to slip on one of their T-shirts to understand the benefits. “I love how durable yet soft and worn-in the fabric feels. It gets better with age, which is rare these days with products. I have always known it would take off in the fashion and apparel space.” After all, who doesn’t want to keep a beloved dress or jacket for as long as possible?

So, integrating hemp is not just a chance to virtue signal; it’s smart business. It also, some designers say, provides a chance to innovate, as it’s still a new frontier with developing technology. Bernardo Carreira, who founded his waterproof hemp shoe company, 8000 Kicks, in Portugal, says they’re on their fifth iteration of hemp fabric and are constantly working to reimagine and improve. (They’re not alone: Other shoe brands like Allbirds and Sanuk are also integrating the material.)

As 8000 Kicks moves beyond shoes into backpacks, socks, belts and more, Carreira collaborates with his unlikely partner—his grandmother, Otilia, who has over 50 years of experience in textiles—to reengineer the yarn to best suit each specific product. “Our dream is to develop this fiber to the point where it no longer makes sense to use leather or polyester because hemp is just better,” he muses.

 Ultimately, hemp believers see the decision to integrate the crop as not only a fashion choice, but a position—and a way to do their part. “Fashion is a form of activism,” says Jungmann. “What we choose to wear says both who we are and what we stand for.”

The post High Fashion: Hemp Textiles are Changing the Face of Fashion appeared first on Organic Spa Magazine.

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