Hemp clothing has long been thought of as coarse, uncomfortable and only worn by environmentalists and hippies.
That’s all about to change in the next few years, though, as one of the world’s leading fashion brands reveals plans to incorporated hemp into its entire range.
Levi’s, who have recently launched a new collection that uses a hemp/cotton blend, see a future in hemp textiles and is in the process of researching and developing a hemp fabric that feels just like cotton.
Their recent collection is a collaboration with Outerknown and includes a pair of jeans and jacket made from a 69%-cotton/31%-hemp blend that feels like pure cotton.
Hemp over cotton
The cotton industry requires immense amounts of water, lots more pesticides than many other crops, and is generally unsustainable at its current rate.
In fact, despite covering only 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, cotton farming consumes 16% of all the insecticides and 6,8% of all herbicides used globally.
Hemp, meanwhile, uses significantly less water – about 70% less – than cotton, and much less chemicals than cotton.
Longer, stiffer, coarser
It’s a tougher fibre to work with, however. Whereas cotton fibres are derived from a fluffy bud on top of a cotton plant, hemp fibre are procured from the plant’s sturdy stalk.
Speaking to Business Insider, Levi’s head of global product innovation, Paul Dillinger, said: “It’s a longer, stiffer, coarser fiber. It doesn’t want to be turned into something soft. It wants to be turned into rope.”
Despite this, he said that Levi’s have plans to create an 100% hemp garment that feels just as soft as cotton within the next 5 years.
There are also plans to introduce hemp into the heart of Levi’s offerings. In fact, Dillinger sai: “Our intention is to take this to the core of the line, to blend it into the line, to make this a part of the Levi’s portfolio.”
Stylish and sustainable
“So often there’s the assumption that to purchase a sustainably-made product is going to involve a sacrifice, and that the choice is between something ethically made or something that’s cute,” said Dillinger.
Once “cottonized” hemp becomes available, however, you won’t have to sacrifice to buy sustainably anymore.