What Is Hemp Fabric? Properties & Sustainability

Giada Nizzoli

What Is Hemp Fabric? Properties & Sustainability

Hemp is a truly resourceful plant that has found its way in many aspects of our lives, from food to biofuel and… breaking news: clothes. Although, is it really breaking news if the first hemp fabric dates back to thousands of years ago?

Well, we think it still is, in a way.

After all, the reason why you’ve heard so much about it over the past few years is that hemp fabric has proven itself to be a great alternative to damaging crops like cotton and to the most polluting synthetic fibres.

Let’s look into it!

What is hemp fabric?

Hemp fabric is a natural type of textile made with the fibres of Cannabis sativa stalks.

Indigenous to Eastern Asia, this Cannabis plant has been cultivated for millennia but hemp fabric has risen in popularity over the last decades after new processes to soften it have been implemented.

So, why is everyone going crazy over it?

Plant of cannabis sativa used to made sustainable hemp fabric

Hemp & hemp fabric properties

Luckily, hemp fabric has lots of positive properties:

  • Breathable: hemp clothing doesn’t hold moisture and even stays odourless by preventing the growth of bacteria and mould;
  • Durable: as well as softening with each washing, its fibres can bend and mend six times more than steel, and hemp clothing is three times more durable than cotton;
  • Naturally resistant and hardy: the Cannabis sativa doesn't need herbicides nor pesticides;
  • Fast: along with bamboo, it’s one of the fastest-growing plants;
  • Kind to the soil: hemp actually returns a large portion of nutrients to the soil where it's grown;
  • Not too thirsty: hemp requires little water compared to other plants and especially cotton, which uses around 50% more water per season;
  • Small footprint: it only uses a relatively small portion of land;
  • Biodegradable: unlike synthetic materials that will stick around in landfills for hundreds of years, hemp fabric can take as little as two weeks to decompose naturally.

Is hemp fabric sustainable?

Woman wearing a blazer made of sustainable hemp fabric

Yes, hemp is actually one of the most sustainable fabrics thanks to its unique properties. 

From its natural fibres to the reduced water usage, hemp fabric is often considered the future of slow fashion.

Plus, because we’ve been cultivating it for thousands of years, we already know that it doesn’t lead to any ecological damage: on the contrary, as we’ve already seen, it literally helps regenerate the soil.

However, just because it doesn’t technically require pesticides and insecticides, it doesn’t necessarily mean that some companies won’t want to use them. Also, the fact that hemp is a sustainable plant doesn’t automatically exclude unethical working conditions.

That’s why it’s still important to buy hemp clothing from companies that are transparent about their supply chain and production methods.

Is hemp better than cotton?

Man wearing a sustainable hemp t-shirt

From a sustainability point of view, yes: we believe that hemp is better than cotton. 

Traditionally grown cotton has a bad environmental footprint due to problems like its high water consumption and heavy use of pesticides and chemicals.

On top of that, hemp can produce up to three times more metric tons of fibre per hectare than cotton.

Still, while conventional cotton can be bad news for the environment, don’t forget that there’s also a more sustainable alternative: organic cotton (check out the differences between conventional and organic cotton).

Interested in adding some breathable, beautiful, and sustainable hemp fabric to your wardrobe?

You can find the right hemp clothing for your personal style on Project Cece, gathering the collections of over 400 fair trade brands!

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Guest blog: Why “natural” isn’t always sustainable

Living sustainably always means living naturally. Right? I think there is more to that than natural = good and unnatural = bad, because like with every complex issue, it’s never that simple and we never get a cheat sheet for living life. I want to talk about some of the main issues with natural fibres and how an argument for their sustainability factor comes from the sole fact that they are naturally derived.

Project Cece is a platform that collects ethical fashion from vetted brands and shops in one place. Browse ethical fashion for women and men and find items that fit your style, budget and values!

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