Hemp: Sustainable Fashion's Miracle Material

Hemp has had a true image makeover in the last decade or so. From being a niche material mainly connected to a hippie image, it has become a sustainable fashion powerhouse. Brands have discovered its versatility and are keen to explore options that unite style and sustainability.

By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert. 

In this story, we will look at:

  • What is hemp made of?
  • What makes hemp sustainable?
  • Is hemp vegan?
  • How can hemp be used?
  • What brands work with hemp?

Baukjen Indigo Hemp Short

What is hemp made of?

Banned for decades in some countries due to its illicit drug connotations, hemp fibre derives from the stems of the hemp plant. Over the years, these plants have been bred to produce stronger, higher-quality fibres. The stem has two layers: the outer layer, which consists of bast fibres similar to rope, is used in textiles. The inner layer, more similar to wood, is used for fuel and construction materials. Some of the advantages of hemp fabric include its high breathability, being warming in winter and cooling in summer, as well as offering protection from UV rays. Oh, and industrial hemp contains only very small quantities of the psychoactive component of cannabis - so the chances of getting high from your new dress are nonexistent.

What makes hemp sustainable?

Possibly one of the reasons while hemp has always been so popular with the hippie crowd is that it's a big friend to the Earth. The hemp plant is a renewable resource which is perfect for organic farming - it needs very little water (much less than cotton, for example) and needs no harsh chemical pesticides. The deep root systems of the plant helps replenish the soil's health and harvest carbon from the atmosphere. Hemp also comes with a much smaller land usage than many other fabrics. 

Baukjen Helena hemp shirt

Is hemp vegan?

This fabric is one of the most eco-conscious plant-derived materials available in fashion and as such, it is naturally vegan. Fewer animals are also harmed in the production of hemp than other textiles: as the plant naturally repels insects, no pesticides are used in the production of hemp.

How can hemp fabric be used?

Hemp's versatility is one of its highest selling points as a fabric. A true style chameleon, hemp can be used in blended knitwear for winter, but since the material is so lightweight, it also shines in warm-weather clothing such as dresses, jumpsuits and shorts - think of it as similar to linen. Hemp can also be incorporated into accessories such as sneakers and backpacks.

What brands work with hemp?

Hemp is gaining favour with the fashion crowds. Sustainably minded fashion brands have turned their attention to this miracle material for many reasons, including its breathability, versatility, and low impact on the planet. Brands making beautiful collections with hemp (and taking it further away from its past hippie image) include Baukjen, whose dresses, shorts, jumpsuits and blazers in hemp are a summer wardrobe dream. 

A brand that works with hemp a bit differently is 8000 Kicks, which incorporates industrial hemp into its ethically made sneakers, as well as its durable, outdoor-friendly backpacks made for an active lifestyle. "Hemp is one of nature’s most durable fibres - we see it everyday on our backpacks and shoes, and in customers' reviews," says 8000 Kicks founder Bernardo Carreira. "We have been growing non-stop because our customers have seen the added quality. It’s a pity this fibre was banned for 50 years, but now our goal is to bring it back to the 21st century and show everyone that hemp can change the fashion industry and replace nasty materials, both technically and visually.”

A hard-working, high-performing vegan material that scores high on any sustainability ranking, hemp has gone from outcast to fashion's new BFF - and rightly so. 

By Sascha Camilli

About Sascha

Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her or listen to her podcast Catwalk Rebel. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

For more great content like this in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter, and save 10% off your next purchase, plus great savings throughout the year.

Immaculate Bestsellers

"A superb experience from beginning to end... I have three items, each high quality, beautifully presented... the first place I look for luxurious classic pieces for my wardrobe.”

Victoria, 5 Star Trustpilot Review