Levi Strauss & Co. has been one of the first companies to jump on the bandwagon producing sustainable clothing, now that Hemp is becoming legal in many places around the world. Its primary use was to get high; however, they have discovered that it has far more qualities.
The product has half the carbon footprint of carbon, but clothing manufacturers have been reluctant to use it until now.
The Levi’s® Wellthread™ x Outerknown collection launched on March 4th and is the company’s first foray into using a special kind of hemp that has been “cottonized” to feel like cotton.
Making Hemp feel like Cotton
Hemp is known to be a far more sustainable material than cotton. It is a densely growing plant that chokes out competing weeds and reduces the need for pesticides. The product requires half as much water as cotton to grow, and when you factor in processing, the difference is four-fold. It also returns 60 percent of the nutrients it takes from the soil back to the ground. Levi’s has found a way to soften hemp using far less water than was previously used.
The biggest hurdle is that hemp feels coarse; this is why it hasn’t been embraced by clothing manufacturers up until now. In the words of Levi’s VP of product innovation, Paul Dillinger, “This is the first time we’ve been able to offer consumers a cottonized hemp product that feels just as good, if not better, than cotton.” A press release goes on to explain that the company is “employing a process developed by fiber technology specialists that softens the hemp, giving it a look and feel that is almost indistinguishable from cotton.”
Sustainable Cotton Blends
Dillinger said the long-term goal is to incorporate sustainable cotton blends by using fibers such as hemp into all of its products.
This research is still in the beginning stages; however, Mr. Dillinger, who represents Levi, has been heard saying that the project will be ongoing. They intend to make this part of Levis portfolio rather than a few trendy products.
Levi is finding ways to improve on the product. The target is to reach half Hemp, half cotton balance for the clothing and other products 100%. They want to get product to feel and act like cotton at the end of the day.
Talking about how this benefits Mother Earth – cotton uses a lot of fresh water to produce. They had the good luck of the ongoing research in Europe, nearly three years in already, which sped up the research level by a tremendous amount.
Get this, if successful, and we could use 100% hemp instead of cotton, the difference will be mind shattering. The fiber cultivation alone will save 1126L. That’s taking out 2/3rd of water waste, that’s Awesome.
Mr. Dillinger said that there are still years of research left before achieving this goal. Cotton would never be entirely replaced. It is also a possibility that Hemp will be just one of several options going forward.
The goal is that we won’t even notice Hemp and by doing it this way, it won’t be a fashion statement but a long enduring effort to keep us looking fad and not hurting the environment in the process. It will take more research.