An October 2019 article in Forbes quotes the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, US, to report that American spending on clothing and footwear is on a steady decline. Americans spent only 3% of their disposable income on clothing and footwear in 2019.
The fashion industry’s unconcerned attitude towards its environmental responsibilities could be a reason behind the younger generations losing interest in its offerings.
The Fashion Industry’s Carbon Footprint
The global fashion industry is the second-highest polluter in the world, says the Forbes article. Reporting on the same issue, Business Insider reported in October 2019 that 10% of the total carbon emissions across the globe comes from the fashion industry.
That is more than the total carbon footprint of all flights and maritime activities taken together. We have become somewhat conscious of the polluting impacts of automobiles, heavy industries, the use of single-use plastic, etc. Fashion has been an invisible offender in the meantime.
Buying clothes doubled globally in 2014 in comparison to 2000 while keeping them halved. The result? Discarded clothes going into landfills every year can fill up the Sydney Harbor.
Clothes laundering releases 500,000 tons of microfibers into our water systems annually – an amount equal to 50 billion plastic bottles. Polyester fibers constitute nearly 60% of these microfibers, choking up our water bodies and playing havoc with marine life. Of all the microplastics found in oceans, 35% comes from washing synthetic clothes.
Replacing synthetic fibers with cotton is clearly not a solution. The fashion industry’s other great offence is its water consumption: second largest globally. Much of it is because of the use of water-intensive cotton.
If the current trend of buying and disposing of clothes continues unchanged, the fashion industry’s polluting footprint will rise to 26% of the global total by 2050, say experts. We clearly need to change our consumption patterns. But it does not have to be in the form of reducing our purchases.
Nature has provided a viable solution and fashion brands have thankfully started waking up to it. We are talking hemp textile here – fashioned from the fibers of the hemp plant. Biodegradable like pure cotton, hemp fabrics has several advantages over cotton.
Hemp and Hemp Textile: Some Basic Facts
Hemp is the non-narcotic cousin of the drug cannabis or marijuana. Both belong to the same plant species Cannabis Sativa, but no amount of smoking hemp will give you a high. It does not have enough tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance with psychotropic properties present in high concentration levels in the drug cannabis.
Needing half the water of cotton is certainly not the only advantage of hemp fabrics. Hemp fabric is like cotton and linen: soft on the body and grows softer with every wash. However, it is a winner over cotton in its durability.
Hemp textile can block the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays completely and save our skin from their harmful, cancer-causing effects. It also retains color better than cotton in the process. Maintaining clothes fashioned from hemp fabrics is easier as they are naturally resistant to pests and moulds.
Their natural breathability makes clothes made of hemp textile eminently suitable for warm climates. Their natural thermostatic capacity also makes them effective in cooler climes.
Big Brands are Waking Up to Hemp Textile
Fashion brands have become conscious of the industry’s massive pollution impact. More and more brands are warming up to the use of hemp textile to produce fashionable clothing of a wide range – from undergarments to fashion wear for different temperature zones.
The decriminalization of hemp after almost a century of prohibition due to mistaken categorization as a narcotic has helped immensely. Market gurus are saying hemp fabrics are emerging to be the next big thing in the fashion industry.
One clarification before we present the list of top 10 fashion brands using hemp fabrics: We have carried out rigorous research to ensure that we feature brands mentioned on a wide range of fashion sites. However, no data points about the exact ranking of these brands are available.
We could not find information either in terms of the total quantity of hemp clothing these fashion brands offer, or the revenues they generate. The numbering here is just a serialization, therefore – not a ranking.
1. Levi’s Hemp Clothing
We have to start with Levi’s, of course. The legend goes that the first pair of Levi’s jeans were fashioned from hemp fabric. Whether that is true or not, it is certainly a fact that the denim icon launched its first line of clothes made of hemp fabric in March 2019.
Fashioned from a blend of 31% of soft hemp textile and 69% of cotton, the first offering included a pair of jeans and a jacket. “Cottonized hemp”, as Levi’s global head of product innovation Paul Dillinger calls it, forms the core of the company’s R&D currently.
It is a long-term R&D effort, says Dillinger. The aim is to produce clothes made of 100% hemp cotton in five years: clothes made of hemp with the feel of cotton. The consumer response has been encouraging, says Dillinger.
Hemp-cotton clothes from Levi’s: Image source
Washington-based Jungmaven specializes in casuals with ultra-simplicity being their brand motto. It has launched the Hemp 2020 campaign with a lofty aim: to get everyone in the US to own at least one hemp t-shirt by 2020. To give the credit that is due to this brand, they have been using hemp textile for years.
2. The Hemp Trading Company (THTC)
Looking at brands that have been trying to get people to realize the environmental advantages of hemp textile over cotton for a while takes us away from the US. THTC is a UK-based brand was founded in 1999 by the Lawson brothers Drew and Gavin with Daniel Sodergren.
Internationally favoured as a street fashion brand, THTC was ranked UK’s most ethical menswear brand in 2016. This brand has been leading the struggle to make fashion use more eco-friendly materials such as hemp, bamboo, and even recycled plastic fibers.
Surfer Albert Lewis founded this brand in 1995 with the firm belief that hemp, indeed, is the answer to an entire range of sustainability issues staring us in the face. Apart from hemp textile apparel, Hempy’s offers a wide range of other hemp-based products, from ropes and twines to lip balms.
This Amsterdam-based brand calls itself “the hemp tailors”. Established in the mid-1990s, Hoodlamb is credited to be the first company to have ever produced a winter jacket from hemp fabric.
Founded in 2012, this brand has been at the forefront of the struggle to legalize hemp in the US. With the brand slogan being “From Seeds to Stitch”, Recreator has a wide variety of hemp clothing on offer.
6. Nomad’s Hemp Wear
This brand has been popularizing summer and winter wear made from hemp fabrics since 2002. Combining this eco-friendly fabric with contemporary urban sensibility is their distinctive mark.
Founded in 1995, this Boston-based brand has been sourcing hemp fibers from all over the globe. They have a strong relationship with the hemp farmers and mills of China, the largest producer of hemp.
This company debuted with an impressive summer wear line made of hemp textile in 2017.
9. WAMA Underwear
This PETA approved vegan brand with Green America certification promote men’s and women’s underwear made from hemp textile. The company strongly believes that its antibacterial and antifungal qualities make hemp fabric the best to cover our private parts.
Switch to hemp fashion for your shopping this year!