Fulfill your brand’s eco-friendly fashion goals with the help of sustainable hemp fabric.
While hemp fabric may seem like just another unusual fashion craze, there isn’t anything new about humans utilizing this plant for fabric. You’d probably be surprised to learn that the oldest known piece of hemp fabric found in Turkey in 2014 dates back about 9,000 years ago. The cultivation of this valuable plant can be traced back over 12,000 years, with evidence of it being used to make rope, shoes, sails, and even paper. Until 1920, an estimated 80 percent of all clothing was made using hemp, a blend of hemp and cotton or linen.
Over the last century, however, the popularity of hemp waned in favor of the materials that we know today. Despite a growing movement to popularize this eco-friendly plant in the last few decades, it is often stigmatized due to its “recreational” cousin. Yet marijuana and hemp, while derived from the same plant, do not result in anything close to the same product. Looking past this relationship means we can take advantage of the environmental benefits of hemp production and the durability of the fabric it makes.
How is Hemp Turned into Fabric?
Hemp fabric is made from the stalks of the Cannabis Sativa plant. Unlike cannabis plants bred for high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels, hemp plants have been bred to produce stronger fibers – and, as a result, are very low in THC.
Within each hemp stalk is long fibers, which are separated from the bark through a process called retting. Next, the fibers are separated from the woody core and spun together to make a continuous thread, which can then be woven into fabric. Unlike other fabric materials, each step of turning the hemp plant into fabric can be done via a mechanical process rather than relying on highly environmental chemicals.
What Makes Hemp Eco-Friendly?
The biggest draw for hemp fabric is it’s much more eco-friendly than other fabric materials. In fact, there are multiple ways in which hemp is better for the environment than more common fabrics like cotton and synthetic materials.
- Cultivating hemp requires fewer natural resources.
One of the most significant advantages of hemp is that cultivation requires fewer natural resources than other fabric crops. Hemp requires significantly less irrigation than cotton, thriving with little to no additional water depending on the rainfall where it is being grown. It also requires less space, requiring half the land of cotton per ton of finished textiles.
- Hemp can help clean contaminated soil.
Unlike other crops, hemp can be grown in soil contaminated by industrial waste, chemicals, and more. Not only does this help farmers use land that would otherwise lay fallow for an extended time, but it also has another benefit: hemp plants help clean and regenerate the soil. The plants absorb heavy metals, chemicals, and toxins while returning nutrients to the soil, allowing farmers to rotate crops more effectively.
- Hemp doesn’t require chemical intervention.
Did you know that an estimated 25% of the world’s insecticides, and more than 10% of pesticides, are used on cotton alone? With thousands of studies showing how pesticide and herbicide runoff negatively impacts water, soil quality, and biodiversity, reducing their use is essential for producing sustainable, eco-friendly textiles.
When it comes to chemicals and hemp vs. cotton, the difference is significant. Hemp plants can be grown with little to no use of these chemicals. They are naturally resistant to pests and can outcompete weeds for space and resources. Fewer plant problems mean farmers don’t rely on chemical interventions to grow a profitable crop yearly.
- Producing hemp fabric has a smaller environmental impact.
Along with the environmental benefits of growing hemp, turning the plant into fabric has its benefits. Traditional textile mills have long been known for producing large amounts of polluted wastewater, contaminating the water table and significantly reducing biodiversity. Even bamboo fabric, which is more eco-friendly than cotton, still produces harmful wastewater. Because hemp can be processed into fabric by mechanical rather than chemical means, factories can reduce their environmental impact without compromising fabric quality or reducing their production rates.
- Hemp is sustainable.
Unlike synthetic fabrics made using petroleum, hemp is a natural fiber derived from a sustainable and renewable crop plant. While cotton and wool are also technically renewable but involve undesirable elements. As we’ve already pointed out, producing cotton requires land, water, and chemical intervention. In some areas of the world, cotton is cultivated thanks to the exploitation of laborers. And many people interested in sustainable fabric take issue with the fact that wool is produced by animals, often from sheep that have been selectively bred for wool production to the detriment of their overall physical health.
- Hemp fabric is durable, longer-lasting, and biodegradable.
Did you know that the first Levi Strauss jeans were made using hemp fabric? This is because hemp produces exceptionally durable and long-lasting clothing items, which means customers can wear and enjoy hemp clothing for a long time before it becomes worn. This reduces textile waste and the number of resources needed to produce new clothes. While cheap clothing has been rising in popularity, it is often produced in countries that don’t regulate textile pollution. Today’s customers are becoming increasingly more interested in sustainable, long-wearing clothing items rather than cheaply produced ones that only last a few months. Clothing designers and manufacturers interested in offering their customers eco-friendly, durable items can benefit significantly by offering hemp fabrications.
In contrast to synthetic fabrics, which can take 500 years or more to decompose, hemp’s natural fibers are biodegradable. This means that any hemp clothing that does end up in a landfill after it is no longer wearable will decompose quickly in landfills without leaching harmful compounds into the soil or water table.
- Using hemp fabric reduces the clothing industry’s carbon emissions.
Despite alternative fabric options, the fashion industry still relies heavily on cotton. Approximately 75% of all clothing produced worldwide contains at least some cotton fiber. Because most of the world’s cotton supply comes from China, a significant amount of resources go into shipping cotton around the world, producing large amounts of carbon emissions before the cotton is even turned into clothing. Hemp, on the other hand, has been gaining popularity as a crop in many countries worldwide, allowing clothing manufacturers to choose a producer closer to home and reduce the carbon footprint associated with obtaining materials.
- Hemp can be grown in varying climates.
One of the most significant advantages of hemp and its low-maintenance needs as a crop is that it can be grown in various climates. This means that places where textile crops are no longer grown – or have never been grown – can benefit by growing hemp for fabric. It is an ethical, eco-friendly, and renewable option for farmers looking to expand their crop options and for farmers in areas with limited opportunities for growing other profitable crops.
Why Hemp Fabric Makes a Great Clothing Option
Hemp cultivation’s benefits for the environment are not the only reasons to consider its fabric for your clothing lines: it also has excellent benefits for people.
Hemp has natural antimicrobial properties thanks to the cannabinoids it contains. This makes it an excellent fabric choice for industrial uses such as scrubs, hospital gowns, and the like. Multiple studies have been done to determine how well these antimicrobial properties work. This research has found that cannabinoids reduce Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infection) bacterial cells and are just as effective at killing the six most common strains of MRSA as antibiotics. This holds true even for the low-THC varieties of cannabis utilized to make hemp fabric.
Additional studies have also found that hemp fabric effectively reduced pneumonia bacteria after a short period. This even held true for hemp fabric blends, further opening opportunities for incorporating hemp into hospital attire to protect workers and patients from the spread of common bacteria.
Hemp: A Sustainable Option That Shouldn’t be Ignored
Hemp is one of the most underappreciated and versatile products today. It has various uses, from food to energy to building materials. Its most promising use, however, lies in the sustainable clothing market. Thanks to hemp’s ease of cultivation and durability, it presents the perfect opportunity for clothing companies to give their customers the option to support eco-conscious and low-waste textile production without compromising clothing quality.
At Dominisii, we have long been aware of customer sentiment shifting toward supporting designers and clothing manufacturers who offer sustainable fashion options. Today, we are proud to partner with several companies working toward making hemp fabric more accessible to clothing manufacturers. We can help move the textile industry into a greener, more sustainable future.
If your company is interested in leveraging the many advantages of hemp fabric for your customers, contact Dominisii today. We offer full-package options, including design, fabric, product development, manufacturing in the USA, Mexico, and many other countries, and distribution for boutiques, the military, corporations, and mass-volume customers, as well as Dominisii, owned/licensed brands or private labels. From the farm to finished products in apparel and accessories, we can help you utilize hemp fabric to produce the best quality, most eco-friendly products for your customers to enjoy for years to come.