Levi’s Develops Hemp Clothing That Feel Just Like Cotton
In an effort to bring sustainability to the clothing industry, especially when it comes to producing blue jeans, legendary company Levi’s has found a way to make hemp “feel just like cotton” while using way less water in the production cycle.
To produce just a single pair of regular cotton blue jeans, it takes 919 gallons of water, including water for the cotton crop, water for manufacture and water for washing. That’s a lot of water considering the world is facing freshwater shortages.
That’s why there have been calls to produce sustainable blue jeans for years, including calls to totally abandon the “worn” look, which uses even more water to achieve.
Several jeans producers are already working to make their products more sustainable thanks to a sustainability guide.
But Levi’s is ahead of the game by transitioning from cotton to the use of hemp.
Hemp is coarser than cotton, but Levi’s has partnered with a company called Outerknown to develop a process to make it feel like cotton against the skin. And that’s a game-changer.
“The introduction of cottonized hemp is huge,” Levi’s said in a statement. “Not just for this collection but for the entire industry. While hemp crops use significantly less water with less than half the carbon footprint, until now, it’s delivered a rough texture, closer to linen than cotton. To solve this, we partnered with fiber technology specialists to create a “cottonization” process that softens the fiber — using very little energy or chemical processing — to make it look, and more importantly feel, almost indistinguishable from cotton. The innovative development of this rain-fed hemp allows it to be woven like cotton into your jeans – same great feel, a lot less water.”
That means Levi’s is wasting little water to make these hemp jeans, especially since the hemp is watered by the rain.
There’s still much work to do, but Levi’s currently has quite a collection of hemp clothing to offer consumers who care about the environment.
The new hemp garments in the Wellthread x Outerknown spring/summer collection include jeans and a trucker jacket. They are made with a 70/30 cotton-to-hemp blend. The hemp, sourced from a rain-fed hemp crop, reduced the water used in fiber cultivation by roughly 30%.
The new collection also includes single-fiber, nylon board shorts, in which all materials — the fabric, the eyelets, the core, the stitching — are made from nylon and are thus fully recyclable, “thus achieving the closed-loop recyclability that has long eluded apparel companies,” according to Levi’s.
It’s time for the entire clothing industry to get on board with hemp. Cotton clothing wastes water and is far more environmentally destructive. Rising global temperatures are causing water scarcity, so we cannot afford to waste any more on the way we produce clothing. Of course, the best way to move the industry is to vote via what we buy. If we as consumers seek out and purchase hemp clothing, manufacturers will have to switch to compete. In the end, the best way to secure a greener future is to make the best decisions with our green money.
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