Going Green with Hemp: The Best Clothing Brands for Sustainable Fashion
Updated: 4 days ago
A little over 2 centuries ago, hemp was the main fabric clothes were made of. This is because it is very durable, doesn’t lose its shape, isn’t prone to shrinkage, and has great absorbency for different colors. Making it a great fabric for many purposes.
How is hemp made into a fabric?
Only the stems of a hemp plant are used to make fibers as these have the most fibers. These are mechanically harvested after flowering but before seedset. Fibers tend to become much more coarse during seed formation so harvesting needs to be done in a rather short time. This way the plant is its biggest and the most fibers can be harvested from the plant.
The next step is Retting. This is often done on the field, field retting, in which they leave the plant there to naturally decompose. This helps with the breakdown of the different bonds between the fibers. For faster drying, windrows are raked several times before the harvest of the fibers. This also removes the unwanted leaf material. When the stems are dry, they are baled and transported to a storage facility.
The retting process is very dependent on the weather and will often result in inconsistent end material because of different weather conditions. An alternative way to do this is water retting. In this case, the plant stems are submerged in water with enzymes to replicate this process. Even though this process is faster and more consistent, this requires lots of clean water that needs to be treated before it can be safely discarded.
After retting the stalks are broken into smaller pieces and combed. Combing is done to remove the last hard woody pieces so hemp fibers can be spun.
Fiber production used to be a process that does not require any chemicals. But, because this was a very long and labor-intensive process, it is nowadays more often done chemically. This way, hemp fabric is cheaper and faster to produce but less environmentally friendly. This type of hemp is known as hemp viscose or hemp rayon.
In both cases (chemically and mechanically produced hemp fibers) the fabric needs to be further processed to make it wearable. It often needs to be dyed to make it a nice color which in itself can be very polluting to the environment, depending on the technique used. And because hemp is a very sturdy and very rough fiber (think about the hemp ropes), it needs to be mixed with (organic) cotton to make it more comfortable to wear directly against your skin.
Pros and cons of hemp
Pros of hemp
The entire hemp plant is used. Stems for fibers and seeds for hemp oil, leaving minimal waste.
Hemp as a plant is very flexible that doesn’t have a preference for soil or climate.
A hemp plant doesn’t need lots of fertilizers and/or pesticides for optimal fiber production.
Hemp is not a thirsty plant. It needs about 10% of the water that would be needed for a cotton plant to grow.
A hemp plant can produce over twice as many fibers compared to cotton on the same land area. Not only because it produces more fibers but also because it can be harvested more often compared to cotton.
Hemp fabric is a very strong and durable fabric that will last ages.
Hemp is naturally anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and mold resistant making it great for undergarments.
Hemp can absorb much more carbon compared to other plants.
Hemp plants have an extensive root system that can hold on to soil well which prevents soil erosion.
Hemp is a natural fiber that can be composted at the end of its lifespan.
Cons of hemp
Hemp fabric is very rough directly against your skin so it is often mixed with cotton to make it more wearable.
You need to pay attention to the type of hemp used in your garment.
Hemp Clothing Brands
One of the most unique selling points of Groceries Apparel clothing is that it uses upcycled food waste to dye clothes. These are collected near its factory in the Arts District of Los Angeles. This dyeing process uses post-consumer fruits and vegetables such as avocado skins, pomegranate, carrot tops, and other forms of organic material to produce vivid natural dyes. While their prints mostly have a tie-dye design that holds great after washing.
Grocery Apparel makes everything in its factory in Los Angeles, which guarantees fair wages and working conditions for employees while providing full traceability of each garment to the customers.
The brand specialties are causal basics such as tank tops, and oversized sweatshirts but also bras and leggings.
Tentree is a Certified B Corp that is known for its sustainable outdoor clothing ranging from sweatshirts, sweaters, tees, tanks, and pants for men and women. They mix their natural hemp clothing with other sustainable materials, including Global Organic Textile Standard certified cotton and Tencel lyocell fabric. What interesting when growing their site is that in every description of a piece of clothing, a summary of its reduced environmental impact (i.e. waste savings, reductions in water use, and emissions) is included. Tentree plants ten trees for every purchase from their shop. Mostly in high-impact areas where they’ll help repair damaged biodiversity or provide benefits to local communities. By now, they are on their way to planting one billion trees by 2030.
Jungmaven aims to allow customers to demand change with their dollars to support a healthier world by creating beautiful and high-quality clothing items.
Founded in the early 1990s when Robert Jungmann (the founder) became passionate about protesting clearcutting forests. He believes hemp offers a more eco-friendly apparel solution and started a small clothing business in a small Central American surf shop.
With increasing demand, the company had to scale up, while it remains loyal to these humble origins.
To this day, all Jungmaven clothing is cut and sewn from paper patterns in Los Angeles by a small skilled team that earns a decent living wage.
Jungmaven works closely with its global suppliers to ensure the hemp is sourced sustainably and the fabric is produced under safe working conditions.
Eileen Fisher is a sustainable women's clothing brand specializing in organic wardrobe-essentials. These range from casual clothes to timeless and elegant pieces for a lovely night out with someone dear. This ethical fashion label offers organic, minimalist, recycled closet staples for everyday wear sourcing only eco-friendly materials such as hemp.
The brand ensures that all its employees have a voice, earn a fair wage, and are treated respectfully in the workplace.
Eileen Fisher promotes inclusivity and diversity in the sustainable fashion industry by offering a wide range of sizes from petite to extended.
This California-based company is known for its hemp-based underwear. They strive to deliver the world’s best hemp underwear through optimal design, fit, and function. They only use toxin-free color compounds to dye the underwear they make. These eco-friendly reactive dyes are certified by Oeko-Tex’s Standard 100 label.
All of WAMA’s hemp plants are grown in China on small, family-run organic farms. The underwear is produced in factories that sign its Code of Conduct, which means that the factory will pay fair wages and provide safe working conditions even though they are made in China.
Mara Hoffman is an eco-friendly clothing brand that creates organic basics, swimwear, knitwear, and outerwear for women up to extended sizes out of hemp, recycled textiles, and other sustainably sourced materials. Their statement pieces are their swimsuits which are made from pre and post-consumer waste. This is in line with the label to aim to reduce its impact and generate awareness for our global waste problem.
Ekzo is based in San Diego and pledges to use only natural fibers for their garments like hemp, linen, cotton, cashmere, and wool. Their collection ranges from basics like t-shirts to large beach towels. Enzo encourages you to explore while wearing our products. They are durable, comfortable, and made to be worn outdoors.
Founded by Vanni Leung who wanted to design clothes that gave back to our planet. Her label Valani does that with vegan, sustainable, plant-based clothing that is strategically designed to minimize fabric waste. Whatever scraps may be left over after your garment is made, they are used to make scrunchies or as fillings for pillows. Valani’s hemp clothing collection ranges from women’s hemp dresses, pants, and tops to accessories like scrunchies.
PrAna was the first company to earn the Fair Trade certification as they have been sustainably producing clothing from its start in 1992. They offer an extensive range of clothing made from hemp, tercel, and other eco-friendly materials in both casual and professional styles.
prAna doesn't use water retting but opts to go for the slower but more sustainable dew retting process reducing the demand for chemicals for the production of the fabric they use. All orders pack and ship in 100% plastic-free packaging to make your purchase even more sustainable.
Thought is based in the UK but started in Australia in 1995. Back then, it was called Braintree Clothing. Thought has all the certifications for sustainable clothing like Eco-Cert, GOTS, Fair Trade, and Oeko-TEX. They strive to combine timeless fashion garments with style and sustainability objectives by using eco-friendly fabrics, including hemp and organic cotton.
Unlike other brands that use hemp as a fabric, Thought is more aimed at sustainability-minded shoppers interested in styles of current fashion trends with less earthy tones like other hemp brands.
Hempy’s is based in San Diego and has been making hemp clothes since 1995. They strive to educate their customers about the benefits of hemp for clothing while making them more aware of the destructive nature of the current standard fashion industry practices.
Taylor Stitch is one of the very few brands that is aimed at sustainable menswear. The fabrics Taylor Stitch uses next to hemp are often recycled or deadstock fabrics. That is why Taylor Stitch is also known for being a great recycled clothing brand.
BEWUSST Hempwear is based in Germany, although they make their hemp clothing in Romania. They don’t use hemp produced in China but they make sure that their entire production process from plant to garment is based in Europe. They aim to use sustainable manufacturing processes wherever possible and they only use natural eco-friendly dyes for their garment-dyeing process.
Onno is a US-based apparel company specializing in colored tees and long sleeves made from a hemp and organic cotton blend. They take environmental sustainability very seriously. They are certified for ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 in 2014 because of their commitment to proper environmental waste management.
All Onno's tees are GOTS certified while they also monitor their carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offsets from CarbonFund helping fund projects that aim to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
Tact & Stone
Tact & Stone is another brand that is exclusively tailored towards men. They offer everything from basic tees to office-appropriate sweaters and outwear, all made with sustainable fabrics and dyes. They are committed to using only organic and natural fibers or upcycled synthetics for the clothing they produce. They are committed to sourcing all their materials from suppliers that are either OEKO-TEX, GOTS, Fair-Trade, and/or USDA Organic certified.
Recreator is both an art swell and an apparel brand, that specializes in sustainable fabrics. It has a great assortment of graphic tees, bottoms, and hoodies for both men and women.
Founded in 2012, Recreator has a vision of boosting the role of industrial hemp in the US agricultural and apparel supply chain. The company believes hemp offers a sustainable clothing solution that everyone should capitalize on.
Most of their collection is sewn in downtown Los Angeles from low-impact-dyed fabrics. Their hemp co