Hemp: The World's Most Sustainable Fabric
In today’s fast-paced, digitally connected world the fashion industry is under increasing pressure to produce ever more innovative and eco-friendly clothing at an ever-faster pace. In response to this growing demand, innovative new eco-fabrics such as hemp are rapidly gaining popularity. This article explores everything you need to know about hemp as a fabric and its many applications in the world of fashion and apparel production.
What exactly is hemp?
Hemp is a long-growing plant that belongs to the same family as cannabis - but don't worry, it won't get you high! Traditionally grown as a fibre crop, it is also very useful as a food source and can be used to make a variety of other products too. At present, the majority of hemp fabric is sourced from the Asian market. While the demand for hemp has grown significantly in recent years, there is still not enough being produced to meet the requirements of the fast-growing market. This has led to a rise in the price of hemp products, particularly in the US where the industry has been growing particularly quickly. The growing popularity of hemp fabrics is largely down to their high level of sustainability: hemp is a very eco-friendly crop to grow and requires little water or pesticides, making it a great option for environmentally-conscious designers.
How is hemp grown?
Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is primarily grown for industrial uses of its fibres and seeds. It is a tall, fibrous plant that can grow up to five meters in height and has tiny flowers that are almost invisible to the naked eye. Hemp is a very hardy plant that thrives in a wide variety of climates. When grown as a non-food crop, it does not require the same level of care and attention as many other types of plants. In fact, it is very simple and quick to grow, making it an extremely efficient crop to produce. Farmers growing hemp for fibre have to choose the right variety of plants in order to get the best possible yield; this depends on the type of fabric they want to produce. Finally, hemp is normally harvested using one of two methods - either by hand or using a machine that cuts the plant down and collects the fibres in bundles.
How is hemp used to make fabric?
Hemp fabric is made using fibre extracted from the stalk of the hemp plant. Unlike other fabrics, it is not woven or knitted: the fibre is processed and then dyed to create a fabric. While there are many different varieties of fabrics that can be made from hemp fibre, the most common type is called hemp linen. Hemp linen is a durable fabric that is often likened to linen due to its appearance. It blends the strength and durability of hemp fibre with the soft and luxurious texture of linen to create a fabric that is extremely versatile and suitable for a wide range of uses. Hemp fabrics are extremely durable and can therefore be used for a huge variety of garments and products; because they are also extremely breathable and regulate the temperature of your body, clothing made of hemp fabric creates an ideal environment for both rest and exercise.
Why is hemp fabric sustainable?
Let's start from the crop: hemp is an extremely eco-friendly crop to grow and requires very little water (making it a good option for drought-hit regions). The hemp plant also has the added advantage of being naturally resistant to pests and other diseases - meaning that farmers don't have to use pesticides to keep their crops alive. Because hemp is such a hardy plant that isn't particularly fussy about the soil it's grown in, it's a great option for farmers who have limited resources. The final product, clothing made from hemp fabrics, is also extremely sustainable as hemp fabric is naturally resistant to bacteria and other microbes, as well as odour-resistant, which means that clothing made of hemp will not require frequent washing. This means that garments made of this natural material will last you longer, giving you more wear. The upkeep of hemp clothing is therefore extremely eco-friendly and sustainable. Fun fact: hemp fabrics are also ideal for people who suffer from allergies - what more could we want from a piece of clothing?!
Where can you buy hemp clothing?
As the popularity of hemp fabrics grows, you will find them being used in everything from sportswear to formal clothing. Because hemp fabric is extremely versatile, it can be used to create a wide range of garments and products - from winter coats, to summer clothes, to sports bras. While you won't find hemp fabrics used in luxury and high-end designer brands (yet!), you will find them being used by those slow-fashion brands looking to create more sustainable, Earth-friendly clothing. One such example is Lithuanian company Son de Flor, which consistently creates stunning, conscious collections that have recently seen the introduction of hemp linen pieces.
Final words: is hemp the fabric of the future?
Hemp has long been used for a variety of products, but it has only recently been used to produce fabrics for clothing. The growing popularity of hemp fabrics is likely to continue as more people become aware of their many benefits and environmentally-conscious features. Not only is hemp sustainable and eco-friendly, but hemp cloth is also extremely durable and long-lasting. Hemp fabrics are likely to become an increasingly popular choice for clothing in the years to come, as they are extremely durable and will last longer than many other types of fabrics. If you're looking to but new items of clothing, hemp fabric pieces may be the most sustainable answer on the market.