The latest Levi Strauss & Co. report provides an insight into the state-of-the-art hemp use in its clothing collections.
The company recognizes hemp as one of the most efficient sources to make its clothing sustainable.
The American clothing company known for its Levi’s brand of denim jeans highlights how hemp is a highly sustainable fabric as it requires less water and fewer pesticides to grow than traditional cotton.
Between 2019 and 2020, Levi’s partnered up with the Swedish recycling textile technology startup Re:NewCell to produce Levi’s WellThread collections featured cottonized hemp.
But as cottonized hemp felt too coarse on the skin for unaltered use in denim, Levi’s worked to produce a softener hemp fabric so that it feels like cotton.
As the company stated in a press release, Levi Strauss & Co.’s sustainability strategy centers on three main pillars: climate, consumption, and community. “These categories encompass the work the company has already been doing – such as industry-leading science-based targets on climate and pioneering material innovations like cottonized hemp – as well as forward-looking initiatives on a wide range of environmental, social, and governance topics,” it read.
Sourcing Journal reported that Levi’s was one of the first companies to incorporate hemp fiber in its denim production at scale. It debuted a collection in 2019 with denim featuring 30% hemp. However, it increased the use of hemp with a Wellthread collection featuring 55% hemp jeans in March 2021.
Using hemp is not new in the fashion industry. Its role has ancient historical roots that date back thousands of years ago. China has the longest history of hemp cultivation of hemp. It was used for clothing and to produce paper. Successively, hemp spread across the world, and it was used in many fields and industries, including for making ships’ sails and ropes. However, with the rise of cotton, the use of hemp started to wane. Furthermore, the beginning of the prohibition era on marijuana set the use of hemp apart.
But as sustainability has recently become the cornerstone in many industries, hemp fabric represents a valid alternative to cotton for several reasons. Cottonized hemp is much less water-intensive than conventional cotton production.
Thanks to such property, hemp can rely on rainwater instead of irrigated water, which could be used for other productive purposes. “Integrating hemp in blends and through our cottonization process presents an opportunity to use a less water-intensive crop that also requires fewer chemicals and less land use for cultivation,” the report read.
Furthermore, hemp requires around four times less water than cotton, and it demands around half of the amount of land per ton. In addition, hemp crops don’t require extensive use of fertilizers as the part of the plant help replenish the soil, and it can be used as fertilizer. Finally, hemp crops can produce up to double the fiber yield per hectare than cotton.
However, cottonized hemp is not certified fabric, although hemp is considered an innovative fiber. But Levi’s stated it is working with industry associations such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to recognize hemp as a more sustainable material.
In recent years, several companies have developed hemp-based collections. Patagonia, Toad&Co, and other brands have helped the hemp clothing market to become more popular also because the new apparel manufacturing technologies are letting hemp show its versatility and the quality of its fabric.