Hemp is one of the most powerful plants in the world and with its legalization on 20 December 2018 in the US, it is expected to reshape not only the labor market but also our wardrobe.
“Job creation is going to happen in every economic bracket,” said Erica McBride Stark, executive director of the DC-based National Hemp Association. “The hemp industry will create high-skilled management jobs, labor-type jobs and everything in between,” Stark said. “It’s going to touch all of society.”
Now, before we get into the real deal about this incredible plant, let’s define it first. The 2018 Farm Bill officially defines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
Hemp can be very useful in different forms: its seeds can be used to make oil, that can be used as a salad dressing, to make protein powder, to use it into milk, eat it raw, or in the case of denim icon, Levi Strauss & Co., hemp also has major implications for sustainable clothing.
And they actually do have a great point for using it in their denim production. Hemp’s industry has been estimated that it might go up and stand at a value of about $13.03 billion by the year 2026.
Levi’s is a denim icon and many people swear by its name. And to keep up their awesome work and do something good for our planet, Levi’s is opting for sustainable clothing. While you might think that cotton is a harmless product, the water requirement of cotton is huge, almost 2,655 liters of fresh water, just for its cultivation. With the processing and the use of the garments, it takes about 3,781 liters of freshwater. These data have been collected from the Stockholm Environmental Institute. Using alternatives like hemp can cut down the water use by 2/3rd.
So, in March, Levi’s collaborated with the Outerknown label, to introduce a jacket and a pair of jeans made out of 69% cotton and 31% hemp blend which gives the pure cotton fuel. Hemp uses a lot fewer chemicals and water compared to cotton but is a bit difficult to manage too. While cotton is derived from the puffy bud found on top of the plant, indicating its softness, hemp fibers are taken from the trunk of the plant. It’s coarse and stiff, according to Paul Dillinger, the head of Levi’s global product innovation. It can be converted into a sturdy rope easily but for clothes – it just doesn’t seem like the ideal material.
“It’s a longer, stiffer, coarser fiber,” Levi’s head of global product innovation, Paul Dillinger, told Business Insider. “It doesn’t want to be turned into something soft. It wants to be turned into rope.”
Paul, explaining the reasons behind using hemp on their denim, told Business Insider that, “Our intention is to take this to the core of the line, to blend it into the line, to make this a part of the Levi’s portfolio. So often there’s the assumption that to purchase a sustainably-made product is going to involve a sacrifice, and that the choice is between something ethically made or something that’s cute. You don’t have to sacrifice to buy sustainably.”
And indeed, he is right at this point, as fibers technology specialist is working in a technology that uses much less water, minimal chemicals, and energy.
Dillinger said: “We’re going to go from a garment that goes from 3,781 L of freshwater, 2,655 of that in just the fiber cultivation. We take out more than 2/3 of the total water impact on the garment. That’s saving a lot.”