It’s been a while since we talked sustainable materials here on the blog, but today it’s back on my mind. Recently I’ve been rekindling my love of hemp, big time.
I’ve loved hemp in my natural beauty routine for ages now, but working with Wallis Evera earlier this year taught me about the wonder that it can be in the ethical fashion world too. Here’s a recap of what I learned last time about hemp in fabric form:
Hemp is a vegetable fibre, making it biodegradable and highly renewable. It doesn’t require pesticides, herbicides or fungicides to grow, and per acre it can produce 250% more yield than cotton and 600% more than flax (which is used to make linen). It grows in just 12-14 weeks, and can grow in a huge range of climates, whilst also breathing in four times as much CO2 as trees, controlling erosion of topsoil and replenishing soil with nutrients and nitrogen. When used to create fabric hemp consumes far less energy and water than cotton during processing, and the resulting fabric is durable and breathable while being naturally resistant to mould, bacteria and ultraviolet light, so it looks after you as you wear it.
You know what else I learned about hemp recently? It’s so good at decontaminating soil that it was planted around Chernobyl to pull toxins from the ground. Seriously, this carbon neutral, toxin eating plant is a little bit magical.
It’s also a heck of a lot stronger than conventional cotton and, in a seemingly serendipitous twist of fate, just weeks after my cotton backpack of five years finally began to give out beyond redemption, The Hemp Co asked if I’d like to try out one of their hemp backpacks. Seeing as they’re also based just down the road from me, it wasn’t a hard sell.
The Hemp Co are based in London, and you’ll find them selling their wares at the ever notorious Camden Market most weekends. But before these bags reach the UK, each one is handmade from 100% Himalayan hemp (which is naturally organic as it doesn’t require pesticides) sourced from the mountain regions of Nepal. The bags are ethically crafted in Thamel and Pokhara, Nepal, by a small team of five who work in good conditions and are treated and paid fairly. Each bag takes around two hours to put together which, in the context of the length of a typical work day, is a stark contrast to the impossibly large quotas pushed onto workers by fast fashion companies. The results are carefully crafted, one-of-a-kind bags made from one of the strongest, most durable textiles out there, which also happens to be completely biodegradable when it reaches the end of its life.
And you know, this summer I’ve learned first hand how durable hemp really can be. I took my hemp shirt from Wallis Evera on tour and, the hardy little fellow it is, that shirt saw me through thick and thin, hot and cold. Eight countries and eleven cities to be exact, and it still looks good as new. So I can’t even imagine how this backpack, deliberately designed to be even more durable, is going to fare through my future adventures. My life really isn’t that glamorous; I’d love to be one of those people who always looks perfectly put together and pristine, but I never will be. But that’s why this bag works for me.
The fact is I’m a backpack person through and through. I’m often carrying my laptop, a reusable water bottle, a huge book, a leotard and cycling shorts, spare socks, snacks/packed lunch, and whatever other emergency supplies I’ve managed to throw in there just in case. I can’t help it, I’m just the kind of person that likes to be prepared for everything. I was on the male side of a wedding last week and I think the emergency supplies bag I packed, containing everything from water to moisturiser for the groom, was probably bigger than the bride side! And you know what, that’s ok. That’s who I am, and I embrace it. And I’m sure grateful to have a bag that’s durable and strong enough to put up with my weird overthinking, all the while not stretching out or going ~weird shaped~ after a few uses (hemp stretches less than any other natural fibre, so is really good at holding its shape).
My particular model has been doing great so far; it fits so much in, which is both super helpful and something to be aware of. I literally always have space, which is really handy because I’m currently reading an 800 page book, but it also can definitely be too big for some – something very obvious to me because I am a very tiny person. However, without me actually advising it The Hemp Co have added a whole new range of smaller bags, so maybe just look out for the words ‘small backpack’ in the description if that’s more your thing. Other than that, this bag is a certified babe. It’s such a durable material that you still can’t even tell it’s been used; if things continue this way, me and this backpack are set to be long term best friends.
And apart from that, it’s just nice to be reminded of how great hemp is. In a world where we think something is sustainable and then the next day realise it’s not, this ancient crop is a friendly reminder that we do have options, and sometimes those options are better than we can even imagine.
Cheers to you hemp!
Until next time, stay magic y’all.