Slow Fashion Made From Deadstock Fabric,
In Cape Town, South Africa.

Hemp, also known as ‘industrial hemp’, is a textile created from the hardy natural fibres of the  Cannabis Sativa plant. Now, I know what you’re thinking… isn’t that like marijuana? Here’s where a common misconception lies: hemp textiles are indeed derived from the same plant as the popular recreational drug, but they have no link whatsoever to the psychoactive properties of the parts of the plant processed for recreational use. This misconception is one of the greatest barriers to the widespread use and production of hemp-goods.

Sewport explains that, “Over thousands of years, Cannabis Sativa has been bred for two distinct purposes. On the one hand, many generations of cultivators of this plant have selectively bred it to be high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other psychoactive chemical constituents called cannabinoids. On the other hand, other cultivators have consistently bred Cannabis Sativa to produce stronger and better fibres and have purposefully reduced the levels of psychoactive cannabinoids produced by their crops.” Cannabis Sativa has been popularised across the world for its intoxicating properties, but it is high time for hemp to take to the stage and for the world to turn a spotlight onto this potentially life-changing textile. Currently and unfortunately, it is illegal to grow hemp in South Africa unless the grower obtains a special license to do so.

However, more countries across the globe are rethinking their preconceptions and misconceptions about the Cannabis Sativa plant, including South Africa. South African adults can now enjoy personal consumption of cannabis in the privacy of their own homes, but regulations which prohibit the sale and purchase of cannabis still remain intact. How this ruling is to be enforced remains murky but increased interest in legalisation hopefully means that the state may become more open to the wonderful possibilities in the textile industry that this crop could produce. As the South African government becomes more open to the possibilities of hemp as an environmentally friendly textile, not to mention with the added potential of great contributions to the local economy, increasingly extensive experimentation of growing the crop has been put into place.

The profile of hemp fabric is an impressive one: this natural textile is extremely breathable, contains high moisture-wicking abilities, a medium stretch and a hardy thread count between 250-300(threads per square inch of fabric). On top of this, hemp also has superior insulation properties, is resistant to mildew and I-JV rays, is relatively easy to dye, less susceptible to fading than cotton and is 100% biodegradable! First produced in Asia and the Middle East millennia ago, hemp is commonly used for a variety of household textiles, as well as a plethora of different types of garments, from socks and underwear to sweatshirts and dresses.

Hemp textiles are the golden child of the sustainability world, and there is good reason for this. When compared alongside other popular fabric options, hemp has always come out on top because of its high level of biodegradability and low-waste production process. The fashion industry is the second-biggest polluter in the world and an increased use of a sustainable textile like hemp could contribute greatly to the shrinking of this massive carbon footprint. First Nations communities have been using hemp as a versatile textile for thousands of years, long before the Western world grew hip to this amazing plant fibre. Archaeologists have found evidence that hemp has been grown since approximately 8,000 BC, suggesting that it may have been the first plant ever cultivated as a crop!

While a widely-used plant-based fabric like cotton may be lauded for its biodegradability and dying ease, many don’t know that cotton consumes massive amounts of water, often along with various fertilisers and pesticides. 20,000 litres of water is needed to produce one kilogram of cotton – enough for only a single t-shirt and a pair of jeans! Other plant-based textiles such as linen, rayon, bamboo and soy silk all have potential as sustainable textile options. However, the majority of companies using these are forced to employ environmentally damaging techniques to produce a high-quality product.

Hemp does not require irrigation, nor pesticides and even improves the quality of soil in areas it is planted. The possibilities for hemp also stretch far beyond that of the garment and textile industry – on top of natural fabrics. companies can use hemp to make paper, oil, eco-friendly plastics and building materials. Another exciting use that is currently being explored is the use of hemp for biodiesel, using the plant’s seeds, and ethanol and methanol fuel extracted from the plant’s stalk.

Medium explains that “Hemp is the only alternative fuel that can run in any unmodified diesel engine, and provides a solution that is more efficient, more affordable, and most importantly, more sustainable than traditional fuel.” The only complication to hemp’s production is that the process often requires specialised machinery, but a greater push for the use of this miracle textile would result in a higher demand and therefore increased ease-of-access to the correctly processed natural fibres.

As the seed of Studio Candor grows and blossoms, so does our dedication to a sustainable future filled with beautiful garments. Join us as we learn more about eco-friendly textile options and make sure that we are leaving behind a carbon footprint that shrinks with each new commitment to means of protecting our earth. Studio Candor hopes to keep pushing for South African companies (and the world over) to join the fight against climate change by setting an example as a sustainable business hell-bent on and dedicated to being as green as possible. Here’s to a continued journey of education and intention which has the potential to rock the mainstream fashion industry.

Resources:

Agricultural Research Council (ARC). (2014), ‘Hemp’, Available: https://raw.arc.agric.za/arc-iic/pagcs/hemp.aspx

Boris Hodakel. (2020). ‘What is Hemp Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where’. Sewport. Available: https://sewport.com/fabrics-directory/hemp-fabric

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, (2009-2010), ‘Hemp Market Value Chain Profile’, Available: http://www.daff.gov.za/docs/AMCP/HempMVCP2009-2010.pdf

Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion, (2016), Natural fabrics: Hemp leads the pack’, Available: https://elizabethgalloway.co.za/natural-fabrics-hemp-leads-pack/

Aaron Cadena. (2018). Remarkable Ways Hemp Can Save the Planet’. Medium. Available: https://medium.com/cbd-origin/4-remarkable-ways-hemp-can-save-the-planet-42338oeadS2

World Wild Life (WWF), (2020), Sustainable Agriculture: Cotton’, Available: https://www.worldwildfire.org/industries/cotton

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