How Fashion is Helping Hemp Fiber Get Back on Track – Hemp Grower

When the Farm Bill passed in 2018, industrial hemp could once again be legally cultivated in the United States after an 84-year-old ban on the crop. Before 1937, hemp was grown widely across the country. People wore it, braided rope with it and made canvas ship sails from it. Historians report that America’s first flags were woven with hemp cloth. Though America’s history with hemp is hundreds of years old, we lost touch with the plant and the processes needed to get the crop from field to factory efficiently.

The 2018 Farm Bill rekindled America’s relationship with industrial hemp; today, we use hemp fiber, grain and seed across several industries like construction, animal care, pharmaceuticals and, more recently, fashion.

In the fashion industry, in particular, consumers and retailers are eager to get their hands on hemp because it offers a sustainable alternative to cotton or synthetics. Before hemp fiber can be mass-produced, however, America needs to rebuild a forgotten infrastructure.

Hemp is Trending in the Sustainable Fashion Industry

There’s an environmental crisis in fashion. Because synthetic fibers are a lot cheaper to make on a large scale, they make up 60% of the world’s fiber consumption. However, tiny pieces of plastic coming off our synthetic sweaters in the wash also make up the lion’s share, 34.8%, of microplastics in the ocean. Other natural fibers like cotton demand a lot of resources; it requires about 713 gallons of water to produce the cotton for one T-shirt.

“When you grow hemp, the practices are naturally sustainable and almost entirely regenerative,” says Alexandra LaPierre, Patagonia’s Materials Developer. “It requires very little water, it doesn’t need pesticide application for most insects, and it is a low-till crop.”

Many farmers in the U.S. use hemp as a rotation crop because it replenishes soil nutrients. To mitigate climate change and reduce waste caused by fast fashion, companies like Patagonia are looking for more sustainable ways to bring soft, sturdy, and trendy styles to consumers with less waste. Hemp is part of the solution.

This season, Patagonia announced 68 of their newest styles include hemp, but it’s not the first time Patagonia has used hemp in its styles. The Fortune 500 company was one of the first fashion brands to ever include hemp in their products in 1997 when it sold a 100% hemp long-sleeved shirt. Now you can find shorts, sweatshirts, jackets, overalls, aprons, and hats that are woven with a blend of hemp, cotton, and/or recycled polyester in Patagonia’s online store.

Consumers are Making it Clear: They Want More Hemp

Customers have flocked to Patagonia’s hemp line since they launched the fiber in workwear styles four years ago.

“We noticed more customer feedback around hemp when we launched hemp in our Workwear line in 2017. These pieces are so much more comfortable for workwear, compared to traditional burly, cotton canvas workwear,” LaPierre says.

Weaving hemp into the fabrication of sturdy jacks and overalls has made the clothing more durable.

“Our customers have noticed the difference, and we hear about it often,” she says. The more demand there is for hemp, the more momentum hemp farmers and their partners can put behind building an infrastructure that supports U.S. industrial hemp on a larger, more competitive scale.

However, the bulk of Patagonia’s hemp comes from a trusted partner in China. …….