AD | Is Hemp a Sustainable Fabric?

Wednesday 28 September 2022

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When it comes to sustainable choices, fabrics can be a minefield. Polyester seems to be in everything, but brands rarely talk about the fact that this means plastic is one of their most used materials. Cotton is supposed to be good, until you hear about its intense water usage and impact on soil quality. So, what other options are there?


Hemp is a bast fibre. That means that it is a fibre derived from the stems of plants, in the case from cannabis. Hemp is a fabric that has been used for thousands of years across the globe to make all kinds of items, including clothing. It has dipped in and out of popularity and at different times even been banned from production. More recently hemp has come back into popularity and is being hailed for its sustainable qualities. But what are those exactly? 

Photo: GeeGee Collection

What makes hemp sustainable?

One of hemp’s biggest strengths is its durability. It is also resistant to fading, so it will keep looking good for longer than other fabrics that fade more easily. If we are aiming for a fashion system where we use our clothes as much as possible for as long as possible, hemp and other durable materials like it are crucial to any new production that takes place.


As its non-commercial name suggests, hemp is quite literally a weed. It grows very densely and dominates other plants by growing over them and blocking their light source and using up the other resources available in the same vicinity. This is useful for fabric production as it means that no chemical herbicide is needed to aid hemp’s growth. It is also a natural pesticide, so can be grown completely organically. Using a densely growing plant like hemp also reduces the amount of land needed in the early stages of the supply chain. It is much more land efficient than some other crops. For example, hemp produces double the amount as cotton in the same space while also using around four times less water. This makes it more cost-effective for producers and is beneficial to the environment by consuming fewer resources.


Landfills are a huge problem when it comes to fashion. I have written before for Remake and on this blog, waste and waste colonialism are huge issues. Across the globe, billions of garments get thrown away each year. Most of those clothes are made out of plastic (also known as polyester) and can take millions of years to break down and also spread into animals and across the environment through micro-plastics. These create health and safety hazards not only to the planet and the animals who live in it, but disproportionately affect those living near landfill sites. Chemicals, heat and gases that get trapped among the rubbish can cause fires, blocked drains increasing flooding, and spread disease. 


Hemp, however, biodegrades much faster than other fabrics. These micro-plastics won’t occur with hemp products. It’s not a solution to waste but if disposed of correctly, it will have a significantly smaller impact than other fabrics. Hemp is also a lot less harmful to the soil it grows in. It returns around 60-70% of nutrients it takes from the soil.


Hemp may not be perfect. There are still impacts when it is dyed, the biodegrading process becomes trickier when it is combined with other materials such as polyester (which it doesn’t always need to be), and if it is used to produce the same high quantities of garments fast fashion brands currently do, the damage will still be incredibly high. However, it is still better than others and can be a useful part of creating a slower and kinder fashion landscape. 

Photo: GeeGee Collection


Introducing… GeeGee Collection’s Expanded Hemp Range 


GeeGee Collection, a small slow fashion brand based in London whom I introduced in my last blog post, are now transitioning to using more hemp in their clothing line. From the end of October, GeeGee are adding to hemp dresses to their collection in addition to the hemp kimono already on sale. 


The hemp GeeGee Collection uses is organic and biodegradable to make garments that not only last and look good for a long time, but will also have a kinder afterlife when they are eventually out of use. This is part of the company’s aim to act as a counter-narrative to the current exploitative fast fashion system and to bring slow, sustainable artisan craftsmanship back to the forefront of our fashion culture. 

Photo: GeeGee Collection

If you like my work and have learned something from it, please consider helping support me (so I have more time to write posts and articles like these!) by buying me a virtual cuppa

If you liked this post you might like: AD | Meet GeeGee Collection

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AD | Meet GeeGee Collection

Friday 9 September 2022

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In July, I went along to the first ever Northern Fashion Week, held in Manchester for 3 days. I had never been to a fashion week event before and I admit I did feel a fair bit of imposter syndrome when I first arrived, but I was excited to see how the event would showcase ethical and sustainable fashion and positive changes in the industry. 


After a few minutes looking around, I found GeeGee Collection’s stall and got chatting to Georgia, GeeGee Collection’s founder. She told me about her business – a focus on traditional artisanship and luxury on a small and sustainable scale – and showed me the samples she’d brought with her. After I took a particular fancy to a jacket and short set, Georgia suggested I try them. I got so much joy from trying on that outfit in the toilets of the convention centre, I never wanted to take them off (of course I did in the end, that would have been unfair to Georgia). A pair of shorts has never fit me as well as that pair did. I absolutely adored them and to be honest, many of my conversations since then have been about these shorts. I’m sorry to all my pals who have had to put up with me constantly going on about them…


So, Who Are GeeGee Collection?


Founded in 2019, GeeGee Collection’s core goal is to bring back traditional artisanship and quality to fashion as a means of moving away from the fast fashion model and its harmful environmental impact. Georgia develops her designs in East London while the fabrics used are handwoven using traditional artisanship in Lyon, France. The clothes are then put together in a sample studio in Shoreditch. 


GeeGee work on a non-seasonal basis.  This means that they don’t conform to the trend cycle and don’t have a limited time for product creation and sale, allowing for fewer designs to be sold throughout the year and with less time pressure on the production process. While big fashion brands have sped up this process to incorporate 52 (or more) seasons per year into their business, operating on a non-seasonal basis slows down the production of brands like GeeGee by adding in styles as and when they’re ready, working on bespoke items and focusing on waste reduction. They also do this by looking at ways to make every day clothing staples feel new and creative. I love any way of making my outfits more jazzy - adding colour or cool patterns in there to spice up an otherwise ordinary look. So I love GeeGee’s principle of reinventing wardrobe classics, like blazers and shorts, to make them more exciting and feel more luxurious!

Image: GeeGee Collection


In their early days, GeeGee were producing 10 products in size small, five in medium, and 5 in large. Two years later they shifted to cater mostly for size large and then downsize when needed, as they found that more styles were selling in that size. Those numbers seem almost astonishing when we’re used to seeing production figures of thousands, millions or even billions of garments by big fashion brands like H&M, Boohoo, and SheIn (no matter how much they try to convince us that they’re sustainable and ethical). As we know through research such as Remake’s 2021 Accountability Report, small businesses are consistently more sustainable and ethical than big brands. In this report, small and medium businesses scored 37 points on average, compared to 9 points average for big fashion brands – highlighting that smaller businesses are leading the way in sustainable fashion.


GeeGee Collection’s first London Fashion Week show is taking place on 9pm 19th September at Soho House, London. This event will include not only a showcase of their clothing line, but also demonstrations using textile looms so that attendees can see for themselves how much time, labour, and skill goes into weaving their fabrics. I am personally very excited to see how this process works! 


If you fancy a nose at more of GeeGee Collection’s clothes and what they’ve been up to, you can find their Instagram and website here. And if you ever want to talk to me about the incredible jacket and shorts pair I tried on, I will be more than happy and will probably get slightly over-excited at how cool they are!

If you like my work and have learned something from it, please consider helping support me (so I have more time to write posts and articles like these!) by buying me a virtual cuppa

If you liked this post you might like: Where Was Fashion at COP26?

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