Hemp clothes are amazing if you are trying to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. They are a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your wardrobe. But why is organic hemp clothing so expensive compared to other types of fabrics?
Organic hemp clothing is expensive because of its very limited availability, disadvantages compared to other fibers, bad reputation, low demand, production, and processing methods.
Hemp clothes are ethical, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. Buying them helps the planet, the people, and the animals living on it. But it may be difficult to accommodate them to your budget.
Luckily, the green movement is booming. More consumers are demanding eco-responsible and fairly produced fashion. Many fashion designers and brands are also making efforts to offer more sustainable items made from renewable resources.
As the demand for eco-friendly and organic clothing increases, sustainable and ethical fashion will become more affordable in the coming years. Hemp fibers are bound to have a bright future in the fashion industry.
Currently, organic hemp fabric stays very expensive. Here are the top 5 reasons why.
Low production of hemp fibers
Organic hemp clothes are made from hemp fibers, produced from a natural and renewable resource: hemp plants.
The hemp plant grows in countries with temperate climates and on a large variety of soils, almost like corn. It's harvested annually.
The annual production of hemp fibers increased only to 60,657 tons in 2018 in the whole world, according to the data of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
That number is very low compared to the amount of cotton (30,3 million tons), jute (3,63 million tons), and flax fibers (868,000 tons) produced annually.
The largest producer of hemp tow worldwide is North Korea with 14,891 tons produced in 2018, followed by the Netherlands, China, and Italy.
There is only a very small amount of hemp produced in the United States currently since the plant was banned in the 1930s.
Industrial hemp farming is very scarce because the production of hemp products, including clothes, is a very small industry.
The very low availability of hemp fibers is one of the primary factors that keep the prices of organic hemp clothing quite high.
Hemp clothing disadvantages
Organic hemp clothing is not only excellent for the environment but also very absorbent, lightweight, resistant, strong, long-lasting, breathable, and anti-bacterial.
But hemp fibers also have many disadvantages that keep them from being more popular:
- They wrinkle easily like most fabrics made from natural fibers.
- They are hard to dye so their colors aren't rich.
- They need chemical treatments to stay soft and elastic.
- They are often blended with other fibers making them difficult to recycle.
- They need extra care to avoid shedding in conventional washing cycles.
Hemp clothes have a bad reputation
A lot of education and awareness is necessary to make organic hemp clothing more popular. People have a hard time understanding the distinction between hemp and marijuana.
Although they were banned in the United States around the same time, hemp and marijuana aren't the same things. Hemp is marijuana's cousin but has little to do with hippie culture.
Hemp fibers aren't made from the same plant as marijuana at all. The hemp plant is a very distinct variety of the cannabis plant. Both of them have similar leaf shape. That's why they are often mistaken for each other.
The hemp plant is cannabis but contains almost no delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Because many people view hemp as a drug like marijuana, it's difficult to discuss organic hemp clothing in many places. The term is often banned from forums and advertising platforms.
If the huge barrier around hemp could be lifted, the hemp industry would grow, making hemp clothes less expensive and more accessible.
The best hemp clothes are natural, organic, and Fair Trade
Hemp is one of the most environmentally friendly fibers in the world. It's a very high-yield crop that has the potential to produce significantly more fiber per acre than either cotton or flax (linen fabric).
The hemp plant grows very fast (in as little as 100 days) and is a versatile fiber used in various products. Plus, it doesn't require a lot of water to grow.
Hemp is breathable, durable, hypoallergenic, and antibacterial. It's a natural fabric, bio-based, and biodegradable.
Hemp is organic when it's non-GMO and grown without man-made pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.
Luckily, the hemp plant usually requires almost no pesticides or fertilizers to grow. But an organic certification is required to be marketed as such.
Only buy Fair Trade and certified organic hemp. An audit from a third-party organization is necessary to confirm the material's quality and its eco-friendliness. Look for organic certifications from:
- the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
- the E.U. Organic Certification Agency,
- or the Global Organic Textile Standard.
In my other article, you can learn more about the best certification standards for textiles.
The only European agro-industrial organization federating all the stages of production and transformation for hemp is the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp (CELC).
Because of these issues and like many other environmentally friendly fibers, hemp price stays high. Unfortunately, hemp isn't perceived as a luxurious fiber by fashion designers, brands, or the general public.
Linen (flax fabric) is gaining more popularity than hemp in the textile and apparel industry. And linen is even more expensive because of its very costly manufacturing processes.
Read up my article on the price of linen to understand why linen is the most expensive sustainable fabric in the world.
Hemp is overshadowed by cotton
Organic hemp is a great substitute for cotton and is much more environmentally friendly than cotton or bamboo. Hemp is a very sustainable fiber that has been used for clothing for thousands of years.
Organic hemp is one of the most sustainable and durable choices for clothing as a natural fabric. Hemp grows fast in the most sustainable way, much more than cotton.
In many regions like China, Korea, the Netherlands, and Chile, hemp farming goes back for generations. Hemp has been a source of fabric for Korea since ancient times.
It's hard to understand why hemp isn't more popular. Hemp fibers are overshadowed by cotton. Hemp clothes were quickly abandoned in the past and replaced by cotton.
People are buying cotton clothing because it's cheap and cotton is what they know the most.
If more people would buy hemp clothes, the price of hemp fabric would go down as more companies would also produce hemp clothing.
The cotton industry is very wasteful and produces so much more volume than the hemp industry does.
Conventional cotton is mass-produced and has a disastrous social and environmental impact. Choose organic cotton whenever you can.
Read up my article on the pros and cons of organic cotton if you aren't convinced.
These are the top 5 reasons why organic hemp clothing is so expensive. Conscious consumers looking for sustainable and eco-friendly clothing don't choose hemp immediately.
Hemp fiber availability is very low. Only a few fashion designers and brands offer pieces made from hemp.
Until we can convince more people to buy hemp clothing, the price of hemp clothes will remain high.
The hemp plant grows faster than cotton. It also requires less water, pesticides, and fertilizers before harvest.
Hemp could ultimately become cheaper than cotton but the demand for hemp clothes has to rise.
Do you know some excellent places to buy organic hemp clothing?
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.