More and more outdoor brands are turning their eyes to hemp. Why? From a sustainability and durability perspective, you’d be better to ask why not.
Maloja uses hemp with their sports and lifestyle collection, Icebug with a new pair of shoes, and the list can go on. Hemp offers carbon sequestration when used for lasting goods, such as textiles, bioplastics and building materials. Literally a weed, there are almost no limitations on growing hemp and it needs no herbicides or pesticides to fight its natural enemies. Hemp is also very tear resistant in comparison to other plant fibers.
However, the fiber strength also poses serious challenges. The strong fiber has a history of setting harvesters on fire and breaking down machinery in the post-harvest production. Therefore, most of production today is short fiber hemp used for technical appliances in the paper and automotive industries.
The textile industry needs longer fibers. Here, a lot of countries are still relying on handwork to tackle the cumbersome process leading up to a fine fiber quality. In many regions, hemp growing goes back for generations, like in Narlisaray in the Black Sea region of Turkey. Farmers here rely on manual labor, from planting to harvesting the up to eight-meter-tall hemp plants; and using the environmentally debatable technique of water retting to separate the bast fiber from its core. However, several hemp companies are researching new technologies to eliminate the manual labor and improve fi ber qualities at the same time. The growing demand for hemp textiles will most likely speed up the development in the coming years.
Photo: Maren Krings