hemp: the future of fashion?

Hemp — what is it, and how is it changing the future of fashion? Original Canvas is a company that is harnessing the power of hemp for good, utilising the world’s most versatile and sustainable crop to produce organic and eco-friendly clothing.  

Original Canvas is a sustainable and ethical clothing business focussed on making hemp accessible to New Zealanders. It was founded by three young Kiwi entrepreneurs who decided they were fed up with the way we continuously harm our environment and ourselves through what we eat, wear, and do every day. Their aim is to educate New Zealanders about the power of this plant, and the endless possibilities that hemp has to offer. They offer an alternative to cotton and synthetic fabrics by creating clothing using  natural fibres that do not require chemicals or pesticides. Original Canvas hopes to inspire people to take the natural route in life, to sustain our environment, and change an industry that far too long has degraded our world and harmed Mother Nature.   

What is hemp? 

Hemp is part of the cannabis family that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. It is one of the fastest growing and most versatile plants on the planet. Hemp can be refined for a variety of uses, including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed. Hemp has been utilised by humans for over 50,000 years, however, in the century or so, its abilities and unmatched number of uses have been banned from the Western world due to an incorrect and long-standing social stigma.  

What’s the difference between hemp and weed? 

Although weed and industrial hemp both come from the species cannabis sativa, they are their own distinct strains with individual compositions and uses. Hemp has lower concentrations of THC (the chemical that gets you high) and higher concentrations of CBD 

What part of the hemp plant is the fabric made from? 

The stalk — hemp fibre comes from the outer layer of the bast. Hemp grows 4-6 metres tall, with long fibres which gives it its super strength.  

What’s the meaning behind the name, Original Canvas? 

The word canvas is actually derived from the word cannabis! All canvas was once made from woven hemp fibres — hemp was the original canvas, and therefore a fitting name for the company.   

Why hemp? 

Firstly, hemp fabric is great for our health. The natural fibres of hemp help fight the spread of bacteria, which prevents skin conditions and irritations. These fibres also ensure the fabric remains odour-free far longer than other fabrics (a major plus for sweaty people). Hemp is nature’s strongest fibre, softening over time but aging beyond its years. Hemp clothing is designed to last generations with love and care. It’s breathable on the skin, which is great for hot days, and it resists UV rays. In winter, the natural fibres will keep you warm, and stay mould-free in damp situations. Hemp is also hypoallergenic, so it is ideal for any skin types.  

Hemp is also fantastic for our planet. With hemp being the fastest CO2 biomass tool available on Earth, it’s a no brainer to be growing more of it everywhere we can. It uses no harmful chemicals, such as pesticides, which kill thousands every year due to poisoning as a result of the fast fashion industry. Hemp regenerates the earth by naturally fertilising it for healthy rich soils. It requires little amounts of water and grows 4-6m tall in a 4-month harvest cycle, which produces four times the amount of fibre to cotton, per hectare.  

Micro-plastics from  fast clothing are polluting our waterways and climbing back up our food chains, thousands of micro plastics are shed from every cycle of washing. Hemp is fighting back against plastic water pollution and giving the eco-systems that inhabit these waters a better chance. 

How ethical is Original Canvas? 

The fabric is certified under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and has been tested for any harmful chemicals under confidence friendly textiles.  

Why is hemp more expensive? 

Because of its connection to cannabis, hemp has been unfairly restricted and regulated for decades. No one has the equipment, education or demand to sell hemp cheap. With the resurrection of hemp, we can change this through consumer demand. Your interest in, or purchase of, a hemp garment helps in the development of sustainable products through conscious consumerism becoming readily affordable.  

How should I wash/care for my hemp clothes? 

Air it out on the line if it doesn’t smell or have marks. Spot cleaning works best for long-term results. Hemp being strong means you can thrash it on a cold cycle in the washing machine and it will keep strengthening with every wash. But dry it flat, do not use pegs, as close tight rubbing could create holes and marks, especially when blended with Organic Cotton. 

What are some other uses of hemp? 

The whole hemp plant can be used! 

  • Food — the seed of a hemp plant is the most nutrient dense seed on the planet! Hemp hearts are great on top of toast, porridge, or thrown in a smoothie.  
  • Medicine — CBD is extracted from the hemp leaf, which has a number of mind-blowing benefits 
  • Building materials — the inside of the hemp stalk makes for a strong hemp hurd, which when blended with water and lime creates a hemp concrete. Ideal for eco-friendly housing. 
  • Hemp has over 50,000 uses and can eliminate plastic products. 

Check out originalcanvas.co.nz for more information about the company and their mission, or to purchase some hemp clothing of your own!  

By Roshanah Masilamani