For eco-friendly clothing, look no further than hemp

If hemp clothing is so eco-friendly, why aren’t we all wearing it?


According to a story by the BBC today, a group of Scottish fashion students have come up with a biodegradable clothing range. The outfits, created as part of an eco-friendly fashion show organised by BBC Scotland, will be on show at the Gardening Scotland exhibition, held at Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Centre.

There are two collections: Gardening Meets Haute Couture and Gardening Clothing Using Green Fibres. To qualify for the competition, clothing had to be actually wearable, and made using organically produced or eco-friendly fabrics. Among the materials used, says the BBC, are fabrics made from potato starch and from hemp.

Here in Normandy, there used to be a great deal of hemp grown. It’s one of the most eco-friendly plants imaginable, needing no pesticides and little fertiliser. Hemp needs less water than cotton, can be grown in colder climates and requires less processing – once woven, it looks and feels almost identical to cotton. So why aren’t we all wearing it?

blog imageI have some pre-War hemp sheets in thick, slubby fabric that are really delightful to sleep in. I only know they’re hemp because when they’re wet, they drive the cats completely loopy. Whatever is in there, is drives them as nutty as catnip. And there’s the clue.

The Latin name for hemp is ‘cannabis sativa’ and it is indeed closely related to the marijuana plant. It also looks near as dammit identical. Where I live, the farmers have a penchant for growing their dope hidden among the maize fields, but the police can spot that from their helicopters. Not so with an acre of the good stuff among 100 acres of industrial hemp.

Hemp production was banned in much of the world in the 1920s and 1930s, when fear of  ‘reefer madness’ was at its height, but fortunately, over the past decade or so, most countries, such as Canada, have seen sense about hemp and permitted its production once more. Only recently, however, are the fabrics produced from hemp approaching the quality that they had 100 years ago. The oil and seed are also being used to make toiletries and cooking oil. Virtually every part of the plant is usable. Nevertheless, hemp production remains illegal in the US.

If you want to save the planet at the same time as looking stylish, next time you need a t-shirt think about searching for hemp clothing online from companies such as HT Naturals. The dress above is from Hempest.

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