Design & Sustainability on

Hemp as a Textile: Soft, Strong and Energy Efficient

— By: The Team at Nau

One of the first plants humans spun into fiber over 10,000 years ago, hemp has a long—and often misunderstood—history. A natural fiber known for its high strength and durability, hemp offers the breathability, texture and drape of linen in a fiber sourced from an intrinsically sustainable crop. Yet these benefits are often obscured by misconceptions about the fiber’s providence, quality—and even narcotic effects.

At Nau, we know hemp to be a versatile and sustainable fiber—when it’s treated properly. So we enzyme wash our hemp for softness, and employ it in blends with high-quality fibers like organic cotton and Tencel® Sun to create refined fabrics that are ideal for warm weather. The result is beautiful fabrics with a fraction of the environmental footprint of other fibers.

Not that Kind of Hemp

One of the most common misconceptions about industrial hemp is its relationship to recreational and medicinal marijuana. While both are strains of the plant Cannabis sativa, industrial hemp is made from plants grown specifically as fiber sources. As a result, it is bred to optimize a very different set of attributes from psychoactive strains. Specifically, industrial hemp features lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical which counteracts the effects of THC.

None the less, industrial hemp is often lumped in with its narcotic sibling, legally and culturally. While its use in textiles is perfectly legal, the cultivation of industrial hemp is only permitted in six US states. From the over 30 countries around the world where it is legal—led in production by France, China and Chile—we source our hemp from small farms in China, because of their proximity to our manufacturing facilities.

Strong doesn’t have to mean hard.

Like linen and flax, hemp is a bast fiber, meaning it is sourced from the fiberous parts of plants. As a result, it creates naturally strong fabrics. But if not treated properly, that strength can make for a stiff, rough cloth. In order to deliver a more linen-like feel and comfortable drape, we enzyme wash our hemp fibers and blend them with organic cotton and Tencel® fabrics to create strong yet soft fabrics.

Kind to the Planet

Best of all, these benefits come with minimal environmental costs. Because hemp requires no pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or GMO seeds, and requires very little irrigation to grow, it requires relatively little energy to produce. In addition, hemp has been shown to have a positive impact on soil health when used as a rotational crop. That’s why, while our hemp sources are not certified organic, we’re confident in their sustainable credibility.

To learn more about industrial Hemp and how Nau uses is, visit nau.com/our-fabrics/hemp.

To see a collection of Nau styles the use hemp, just visit our hemp collection page on nau.com.