Hemp clothing for a fashionable, sustainable future
Hemp has been the star of the show in recent years as people realize the potential of CBD. But the hemp plant and its fibers have been used long before the Farm Bill passed.
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There was a time when a hemp shirt was bound to be itchy or breathed about as well as a trash bag. But that’s changed in recent years, clothing brands are working hemp into their pieces in combinations that are soft, breathable, and stylish.
Robert Jungmann, the founder of the clothing brand Jungmaven, has been designing hemp clothing, bags, and wallets since the early ’90s. His focus on hemp clothes started with a realization.
“Discovering the potential that hemp cultivation has to combat climate change was my enlightening moment,” said Jungmann in an email with GreenState. “Recent years have undeniably shown the adverse consequences of mishandling our precious resources, leading to escalating temperatures and environmental decline. In my view, championing hemp textiles represents the paramount fashion revolution to enact meaningful change.”
Benefits of hemp textiles
“Hemp offers excellent breathability, natural antibacterial properties preventing mold growth and odors, aesthetically pleasing appearance, and durability due to the flexibility of long hemp fibers,” Jungmann shared. “The fabric and garments age gracefully, acquiring a remarkable patina.”
Growing the plant is also beneficial to the environment. Hemp cultivation takes few synthetic nutrients, contributes nutrients to the soil, has a deep taproot that draws harmful additives from the soil and needs little to no irrigation.
But there are negatives to hemp textile manufacturing. “A drawback (of hemp) is the absence of domestic hemp cultivation for textiles in the USA, resulting in high import duties on yarn and fabric from China, the world’s leading hemp producer,” said Jungmann.
Bringing hemp back to U.S. soil
Patagonia noticed the same. In 2020, the brand connected a struggling father-son hemp farming team with university soil scientists and Patagonia-supplying hemp farmers from China. The goal was to help the state of Colorado identify production gaps.
GreenState learned more about the project from Alli La Pierre, Material Developer at Patagonia.
“This project was a great start to helping the Colorado state government determine the resources needed to be successful in this space. Currently, the Colorado Hemp/Cannabis Cabinet and the Department of Ag. are working on the next steps for legislation and a call for companies to bring processing into the state and to get funding to help interested companies get started on building facilities,” La Pierre shared.
Patagonia stays in contact with the Colorado Hemp Cabinet as they standardize the market while supporting other hemp farming operations in the country.
Fashionable hemp clothing
Purveyors like Patagonia and Jungmaven know the tangible, valuable benefits of growing and utilizing hemp in day-to-day life, but many Americans don’t yet. Back in the ’90s, there were limitations on hemp textiles. Garments were made of either canvas or twill and either purely hemp or blended with cotton.
During that time, Jungmann recalled making every type of bag imaginable. But he wanted to reach even more people with Jungmaven and realized the best way to do that was through a garment everyone wore.
“In 2005, I made a conscious choice to prioritize t-shirts as a means to spread awareness. After all, everyone needs a shirt, and what better approach to advocate for hemp than by having people wear t-shirts that initiate conversations about it?”
The brand created a shirt Jungmann calls exceptional, and the line has since expanded. Jungmaven is ideal for people who live an active lifestyle but also want to look cute. The Ocean Pant marries the durable fabric and deep pockets of cargo shorts with a flattering silhouette, and the singlet just looks plain fun.
And Patagonia is well known for a wide array of garments, from technical gear to baby clothes. This year, the brand will reap what they’ve sown—literally. The first-ever piece with their label made with hemp grown and processed in the United States is dropping soon. The tool bag is reversible to cater to various different projects and manufactured in partnership with multiple American craftspeople.
“The Hemp Tool Bag uses US-grown hemp, processed, woven, and cut and sewn in the US,” La Pierre revealed. “The hemp is grown and cultivated on Native land inherited from the White Earth Tribe in partnership with the Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute. The fiber was processed domestically through a partnership with Renaissance Fibers out of North Carolina and woven at Southern Industrial Fabrics out of Georgia.”
There are pros and cons to wearing hemp. But when hemp is more widely grown in the states, more clothing companies will have access to sustainable, breathable, durable hemp materials (and probably building materials too).
Supporting brands, initiatives, and policies working towards this goal could speed up the process. In the meantime, why not add some hemp fashions to your closet?