Local, organically sourced and upcycled materials are now essentials for the fashion industry, which is trying to reinvent itself in order to reduce its impact on the environment.
Like linen, hemp is one of the fibres that could well take over our wardrobes in the months and years to come.
One need only take a look at the new collections of most ready-to-wear brands, including fast fashion giants, to realise that the textile industry is gradually turning to sustainable materials.
It includes organic for some, but also plant-based, and particularly materials whose cultivation requires less water, no or few pesticides, and, icing on the cake, can be done locally.
In other words, cotton, while still in high demand, is no longer the essential, ultimate fabric. Brands are in search of new fibres that could meet all these criteria.
While linen seems to be getting its revenge on all the materials that have overshadowed it in recent decades, it's not the only one to be winning over fans in the fashion industry.
In addition to alternative "leathers" made from cactus, apple, grape, and mushroom, hemp is proving to be a fibre not to be overlooked in the move towards more eco-friendly fashion.
A sustainable alternative
Contrary to popular belief, hemp is anything but a new, innovative fibre. The textile industry has been using it for centuries, although for many years it pushed it to the side in favour of other materials until environmental issues changed the deal.
Because hemp, in all its forms (seeds, oil, fibres), represents a naturally sustainable alternative in many sectors, including food, cosmetics, and of course... fashion.
According to Mara Hoffman via the Council Of Fashion Designers Of America,"hemp is naturally resistant to pests, requires relatively little water, and grows quickly".
Hoffman adds: "Hemp is a 'sister plant', meaning it replenishes the soil for the crops around it and is ideal for crop rotation."
Which is its first good point. The plant is also drought resistant – so it requires less water to grow – is fast-growing, and its fibers are considered extremely strong.
All of which makes a person wonder why the industry has put it to the side for so long. The answer resides in the processing of hemp fibre, which is very complex and, by extension, more expensive than the processing of other fibres.
Which makes it easy to understand why the industry lost interest in it...
However, it's hoped that technological innovations observed in the sector in recent years will eventually reduce these costs, and the processing time, to make it a more accessible material.
The brand Bewusst Pure Hemp Wear offers collections for men and women in 100% hemp. Prices are around 165 euros (RM828) for jeans, 125 euros (RM627) for a sweater.
The HempAge label remains one of the best known in the field of hemp textiles, although most of the pieces offered generally mix hemp and organic cotton (or wool), which explains the more accessible prices.
Meanwhile Patagonia also offers a hemp line, while Levi's Wellthread collection includes "cottonised hemp".
While brands specialising in hemp textiles remain rare, there are on the other hand many multi-brand e-shops, often dedicated to fans of natural fibers such as linen, hemp, or bamboo. – AFP Relaxnews