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The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluting industries on earth. The combination of agriculture pollution from textile crops, the use of synthetic fibers, and the extensive overproduction of clothing items have caused the fashion industry to become responsible for 10 percent of the world’s total carbon footprint. Luckily, some big names in the fashion industry are turning to greener alternatives for their textiles. Alternatives like hemp clothing.
An Intro to All Things Hemp Textiles
Hemp does not require pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, doesn’t need much water to grow, and cultivation of this crop even improves soil health and prevents erosion. Furthermore, hemp grows in nearly any climate.
Hemp textiles provide many advantages over other textiles as well. It’s much stronger and more durable than cotton. Hemp clothing is weather resistant and protects against UV radiation better than any other textile. On top of that, hemp is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial.
Moreover, since 66 percent of consumers are willing to spend more for sustainable products, many fashion brands are turning to hemp textiles to not only satisfy their customer’s demands but also to increase their bottom line.
There’s still a long way to go before hemp textiles are mainstream. However, with the 2018 Farm Bill being approved — which removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and allows legal cultivation of hemp in the US — we can expect to see a lot more clothing brands adopting this versatile and eco-friendly textile.
The following forward-thinking big brands are already leading the way in the hemp clothing revolution.
Outdoor clothing company Patagonia has always been active in environmental issues, committing 1 percent of their total sales to nonprofits focusing on sustainability and conservation. So it only makes sense that they offer an eco-friendly clothing line with hemp textiles. Their hemp clothing line is mainly geared towards rough outdoor work, as hemp provides the perfect protection against the elements and abrasions. However, they also offer everyday men’s and women’s clothing — and even some hemp clothing for babies.
Patagonia states that, though the hemp they use is not certified organic, it is grown entirely organically. They offer garments made from 100 percent hemp as well as blends with recycled polyester, organic cotton, and spandex.
Patagonia currently imports their hemp textiles from China, but it is highly likely the company will begin making the switch to locally sourced manufacturers, now that is is legal to grow industrially in the United States.
prAna (Columbia Sportswear)
prAna — a subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear — offers unique activewear apparel. They have clothing lines geared towards specific activities, including yoga, climbing, hiking, fitness, and travel.
prAna notes that hemp textiles are ideal for activewear because it is lightweight and breathable, much like linen. Hemp also stays strong and durable even after many washings. Moreover, as prAna blends their hemp with other materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, and spandex, their hemp clothing line does not wrinkle.
A big reason why the adoption of hemp textiles has not become mainstream yet is that often the texture of hemp cloth can be quite rough.
That’s precisely why Levi’s recently partnered with fiber technology specialists to figure out how to soften hemp fibers, so they feel as soft as cotton. This “cottonization” process has allowed Levi’s to release a collection of hemp clothing that feels just like their standard denim — with less than half the typical carbon footprint.
“We know hemp is good for the environment, but it has always felt coarse,” Paul Dillinger, Levi’s VP of Product Innovation, stated in a press release. “This is the first time we’ve been able to offer consumers a cottonized hemp product that feels just as good, if not better, than cotton.”
Levi’s spring and summer 2019 collections are the first in the world to feature cottonized hemp denim, including a men’s jacket, t-shirt, board shorts, and slim fit jeans. Expect to see even more hemp denim coming from Levi’s in their coming fall and winter collections.
[2024 Update: EnviroTextiles has since gone out of business]
Colorado-based EnviroTextiles manufactures and imports more than 100 different kinds of hemp fabrics worldwide, from hemp knits to hemp silks and everything in between. They are proving that hemp is a genuinely versatile textile and can be used in a vast number of applications even outside of clothing, including as upholstery for furniture and cars, products for bed and bath, and more.
Their hemp fabrics have been used by high fashion designers such as Ralph Lauren, Donatella Versace, Calvin Klein, and many others. Both Volkswagen and Ford have used their hemp textiles in some of their cars’ interiors. EnviroTextile’s hemp fabrics have even been featured in Hollywood films like The Last Airbender, where all costumes were constructed out of 100 percent hemp.
The Future of Hemp Clothing
Hemp is geared up to transform a ton of industries out there, and the textiles and fashion industry is no different. Now that hemp is legal in the United States, the door has been opened to a wealth of opportunities.
The growing hemp textile trend is exciting news for businesses and consumers alike, as the demand for eco-friendly sustainable products ever increases. It’s likely we will see plenty of new hemp textile inventions being created — like Levi’s cottonized hemp denim — as adoption continues to spread across big fashion brands in the near future.