Hemp is a natural raw material that really fascinates me. Yet, it has been highly associated with the “hippie” and somewhat shabby style. Living in the majestic region of the Himalayans I am spoilt with access to sustainable natural raw materials. Hemp weave and other plant fibres used for textiles grow profusely and naturally here. I want to see more of these textiles in mainstream fashion, here or in the western world.
I’ll take a moment to explain why I’m bringing up this subject in the first place. A lot of the clothes we have been purchasing consist of unhealthy amounts of micro-plastic fibres. These tiny fibres are released from the clothing, which we also inhale, and with every wash get washed away into the water system and eventually into our seas and oceans. I think you will agree when I say, this sucks!
Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic clothing are all forms of plastic. We are, unknowingly, dumping hundreds of thousands of micro-plastic fibres into the sewage system every day – fibres so small that they are unable to be caught by any filter and eventually get into our seas and oceans. Upon writing this I remind my readers to take actions toward sustainable fashion consciously. Dumping all your ‘old and synthetic’ clothes haphazardly will not be a responsible choice and I remind you about our talk on sustainable fashion.
Hemp Design & The Hippy Style
The second reason I want to talk about hemp is driven by a friends’ comment that kept replaying in my mind. Just before coming to Nepal in 2013, she remarked, “Please don’t come back covered in hemp wear!” With hardly any knowledge on the textile or what she was referring to exactly, I soon discovered what she meant.
Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu, is riddled with outlets and vendors selling clothing, bags and shoes in this category that many people wouldn’t want to be seen in. It’s not the fabric itself but the style and design in which it is used that don’t resonate with many.
Let’s begin with:
What is hemp?
Hemp is a plant, commonly known as the cannabis plant, which grows organically and wildly here in Nepal (and other regions around the world). It’s an amazing plant that has so many uses and benefits and regrows naturally without the use of pesticides and other chemicals.
The plant itself has multiple uses in textile, crafts, medicinal and food use. Read 10 facts about Hemp below.
As far as textiles go, I have seen hemp being weaved into the most beautiful, rough and imperfect textile; when used appropriately matched with pleasing design and originality, produces an interesting textured textile. Hemp is known for its durability and despite its rough appearance, it actually gets softer and more resilient with every wash!
Hemp weave in accessories
I learnt more about hemp fabric whilst exploring the beautiful designs of Marina Vaptzarova. The designer, Marina Shrestha, manages to use this rough sustainable raw material in such a refined way. Through her creations, you can really note the importance of knowing your fabric paired with a tasteful flair for design and style.
Marina Vaptzarova uses hemp weave alongside other delicate textures like her vegetal leather (made from plant fibres of the Himalayan Daphne bush), linen, nettle weave and handmade brass elements.
I recently partnered with the young duo-entrepreneurs David and Prabighya at Khali Khutta. Their dreams are to open up their farm space to welcome guests to learn about sustainable living.
In the meantime, they share their love for nature by producing – thanks to their team of craftsmen – gifts from Nepal. Their product range includes a number of natural beauty products but most notably their durable hemp-cotton yoga mat and accessories. “We believe that, as individuals, knowing the source of the materials and products we purchase is important. Knowing the people who grow, harvest, process and stitch your products means we know where the money is going when you make a purchase from us.”
Hemp for undies!
Wama Underwear is my favourite recent addition to my undies drawer! The brand has studied hemp textiles and learned that it is anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, has anti-odour properties, breathable and actually quite soft! Super comfortable, breathable and gets softer with every wash, hemp is the perfect fabric for your underwear too. WAMA works with GOTS certified suppliers in China to ensure the organic status of their product. They also partner with factories that improve their employees’ lives with fair wages and quality work environments.
Check out WAMA’s Hemp Undies for women and men.
The issue for me is, Nepal has so much to offer in this regard, but unfortunately, the industry is not developed. So a lot of the refined finished hemp textile itself (usually mixed with cotton and other fibres) is imported from China and India. Still, I believe this is a step forward. On a global level, hemp is finding itself in more corners of the globe, dressed by trendsetters that don’t match the ‘hippie’ persona the fabric was once associated with.
Do you own anything that contains hemp fibre? Where was it made and how do you feel about it?
10 HEMP FACTS:
(Source: O Eco Textiles)
- It is stronger and more durable than any other natural fabric including linen. Products made from hemp will outlast their competitors by many years.
- It holds shape, stretching less than any other natural fibre.
- It becomes finer and more luxurious with use and washing.
- It’s very breathable and quick drying, perfect for the hot sweaty months and your underwear!
- Has high resistance to UV light, it will not fade or disintegrate from sunlight as quickly as other natural fibres.
- Hemp fibre is highly resistant to rotting. Its resistance to mildew, mould and salt water led to its premier use in marine fittings.
- Any product made of 100% hemp is fully biodegradable
- Grows without the use of chemicals: no pesticides or fungicides are used because it has few serious fungus or pest problems.
- Requires less water to thrive than cotton and grows well without irrigation.
- Hemp has a yield higher than any other agricultural crop, therefore, requiring less land for equal yield.
- UPDATE: Hemp fabric is also proven to have excellent UV protection in a recent test by WAMA.
Other useful resources:
Hemp history in the US