Some time ago on our search for sustainable fabrics for our shoes, we came across an old textile classic: hemp.
Cotton has wonderful properties and, processed in various ways, can make a robust upper material, also for wild shoes, but in terms of sustainability it entails a couple of challenges: it can't be planted everywhere, it needs a lot of water and it’s susceptible to pests. That means that it’s often necessary to use pesticides. Using organic cotton at least ensures that no pesticides are used, but here, too, the water consumption remains enormous.
So we were always on the lookout for alternatives. And a promising one is hemp.
Advantages of hemp
For a long time hemp was the most widespread and most widely used cultivated plant.
It can be made into paper, clothing, ropes or sails and is pretty easy to grow. It grows well in mild climates, it only needs about a quarter of the amount of water required by cotton, is immune to pests and therefore doesn't require pesticides, and - unlike cotton - it co-exists well with other plant and animal species.
Why was hemp almost completely displaced by cotton, when it has so many advantages? There were various reasons: The mechanisation of cotton mills and the invention of artificial textiles, the comfortable feel of cotton and the low price of importing it (at the cost of the working conditions and with environmental consequences in the areas where it was cultivated), hemp’s bad rap due to its association with cannabis - all these things benefited the rise of cotton.
Over the last few years the advantages of hemp have been rediscovered, especially for the textile industry. However, as hemp cultivation in Europe dwindled, lots of knowledge about processing it was lost. Demand for hemp must first be rekindled, and it’s currently quite difficult to find European hemp. And if you also want your hemp to be organic, it starts to get really difficult. One of our current suppliers, who provides our organic cotton, has now begun to supply hemp, too, and our coming collection includes a model made of this dream fabric. Mixed with linen it’s the perfect upper material for our Wildlings.
Care and maintenance
Hemp textiles are coarser and rougher than cotton and therefore the feel of the fabric takes some getting used to. It’s very tear-resistant, but when washed (especially in hard water) it becomes stiffer than cotton. You can soften it again by kneading it for a little while. Hemp shouldn’t be washed with washing powder as it builds up in the hollows of the fibres and destroys them.
Wet hemp has its own particular smell, similar to hay or wet leaves. And since it absorbs water well, it takes longer than other materials to dry. But as the moisture disappears, so does the smell.
However, for Wildlings, which don’t belong in a washing machine anyway, hemp is a low-maintenance fabric as well as a sustainable one. Making Wildling as sustainable as possible is our vision and our goal for 2019 and the future - what’s your vision, your goal? And do you have experience with hemp textiles?
Run wild and with vision in 2019!