Hemp textiles have been used in history for centuries. It is thought that hemp was one of the earliest cultivated plants for textile fibre known to humanity. Historians believed that this plant was used in Europe in approximately 1,200 BC.
After then, it spread throughout the ancient world. A few examples from early discoveries includes hemp cloth from ancient Mesopotamia found from 8,000 BC., the Chinese work of the Sung dynasty produced by Lu Shi in 500 AD and Emperor Shen Nung who lived the the 28th century BC who was also thought to have taught his people to cultivate hemp for cloth.
When it comes to the British history, in 1535 Henry VIII passed an act condemning all landowners to sow 1/4 of an acre, or they would be fined. During this period hemp was a major crop to the point where 80% of clothing was made from hemp textiles up to the early 1900’s. By the 17th century the word ‘canvas’ was discovered during naval development when local ship production took place. Sails were named after the word cannabis due to its connection to its cousin industrial hemp.
There were also jobs for rope walkers to produce thick coarse ropes to embed sails as the material was more rot resistant and coped well with the salt water.
What is the situation today? There is a movement to see the hemp fibre industry develop as pressures for ecological methods and materials are now required more than ever to help combat the climate crisis. We see companies such as Levi’s and Lego who last year announced that their future products will contain hemp. Bio-composites, building materials, plastics, textiles and paper are now industries which are looking for alternative materials.
When it comes to Cultiva Clothing, our mission is to pioneer an industry which is built with a strong supply chain to cope with the high demand for fashionable garments. We might have used this natural material for generations to clothe humanity but traditional craft methods do not cut it for mass production. Most of us are still competing with China’s low production prices. This is a country which has been one of the longest cultivators of industrial hemp for over 6,000 years. So, the challenge here is to fight fast fashion by getting consumers to save and pay a bit more for a good quality product. Unfortunately, in some respects, we have to pay our way out of this climate crisis.
Currently it is the middle class who have the disposable income to do this as environmentally conscious products are highly priced. We will be bringing schemes in soon to make these types of products accessible for most people. We believe this is very important to allow the shift into alternative materials to happen a lot quicker than predicted. Not only this but we have considered the entire circular loop life cycle of hemp textiles as we understand its full environmental impact, ethical production and its life after use.