About a year ago, I was listening to my favorite podcast, Conscious Chatter, a radio style program that addresses sustainability and ethics in the apparel industry. The subject matter for the 30 minute episode was hemp and the guest speaker was none other then Project Runway's Tim Gunn.
As you might imagine, I was immediately captivated.
I had known that hemp was a sustainable fiber from my studies at Parson's School of Design but I what did not fully understand was why hemp was not being used in apparel. From my own experiences (seeing hemp products in various "head-shops" in Boulder, Co) hemp seemed to be a very coarse material not entirely suitable for refined apparel. What I learned from the podcast was that hemp (historically speaking) was widely used until 1937 when it became illegal. Unfortunately, during this time, hemp was linked up with it's cousin, Marijuana and outlawed during a somewhat hysterical time in American history known as "Reefer Madness." In short, hemp got a bad rap during this time period due to it's association with marijuana even though hemp does not actually get you "high."
As pointed out in the podcast episode hemp as an apparel fiber...
- Uses little water
- Does not exhaust the soil
- Does not require pesticides or herbacides
- Can create very long lasting clothing - Hemp being second to Silk in terms of durability
As a result of the above is far more sustainable then most traditionally grown fibers used in apparel.
However, I was still skeptical that hemp could be soft enough to be worn against the skin and look refined in women's apparel. But after a year searching I can finally say that I have found a beautiful woven fabric that is soft, shiny, resilient, and made of hemp. This spring, I'm introducing two spring jackets both made from a combination of 70% hemp 20% wool and 10% yak down. The wool and yak down are the perfect compliment to the hemp fiber and provide softness and sheen. The jackets both sewed up like you might imagine a nice spring linen but with the added benefit of sustainability. Below are a few pictures of the jackets in the works.