Hemp clothing doesn’t have to be “weird hippy stuff”. Canterbury trio Eden Sloss, 23, Brad Lake, 26, and Brendon McIntosh, 29, are keen to make hemp trendy by producing an environmentally friendly line they hope will push fast-fashion – inexpensive, mass produced trendy clothing – to the kerb.
The first hemp apparel line from Original Canvas will launch this weekend, including unisex T-shirts, long sleeve tops and shorts. Eventually, they hope to expand the range to be able to supply custom uniforms and workwear.
Hemp fibre was undergoing a strong resurgence globally as the effects of cotton growing were becoming apparent on eco-systems, something Sloss said she saw first-hand at fashion shows.
Sloss, who studied fashion at Otago Polytechnic, said the nature of the fast-fashion industry meant most of the products were “obsolete before leaving the runway”. Clothing was mostly made of plastic and synthetic fabrics, which were then dumped in landfills.
“Customers need to put their money where their mouth is and support local designers and companies who their morals align with.”
Sloss said it was about trying to encourage a shift towards sustainable shopping and she wanted to match the price of non-sustainable companies, making buying her clothing a no-brainer.
“There are a few other companies selling hemp clothing but most of it is supper hippy stuff, nothing my mum would wear. We want this to be wearable.”
Hemp had fire retardant properties, was UV resistant whilst still being breathable and odourless, making it ideal for the construction industry, she said. She hoped the range would eventually expand into construction wear.
The fabric is more porous than cotton, which allows your skin to breathe, softens with age and is more durable and stronger than cotton.
Sloss teamed up with Canterbury-based Lake and McIntosh, a duo already passionate about hemp’s properties, about six months ago. The pair already ran Koaka cosmetics, making hemp seed oil moisturiser, The Brothers Green, who make hemp seed cold pressed oil, and Beefy Green.
The union resulted in Original Canvas. Sloss hand stitches all the garments in her Prebbleton studio with ethically sourced fabric but she hopes to expand to an overseas production plant.
Last year, iD Dunedin Fashion Week committee member Bernadette Casey said it took 2700 litres of water (or one person’s drinking water for almost three years) to produce one cotton T-shirt, and about 10,000 litres of water for a pair of jeans.
Most fashion garments are woven, dyed and sewn in developing countries by people paid less than the living wage. The waste – including toxic dyes – is then often flushed straight into waterways.
Sloss encouraged customers to do their own research before purchasing clothing and investing in pieces with a long life to try and cut down on waste.