Hemp in Fashion: Exclusive Interview with AFENDS

It's Hemp Month here at The Green Fund, and during this time we're looking into hemp in its entirety.

We've covered the history of hemp, the industry, the biggest stocks to watch out for and all things CBD.

However, we also want to focus on where hemp might end up, and what the future holds for the plant. Because of the versatility of the hemp plant and the ability to extract CBD from it, hemp is popping up in every nook and cranny imaginable.

From hemp-based cigarette filters to hemp bioplastic becoming the next LEGO brick, we're looking for areas and industries where hemp could be the next disruptive force.

 

 

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This search has led us to the fashion industry.

Contributing towards a large chunk of global greenhouse gas emissions, the fashion industry is far from green.

In Australia alone, 6 tonnes of clothing goes into landfill every ten minutes.

Elsewhere, international fashion giants such as Nike, Burberry and H&M will burn or shred their leftover clothes each year in order to maintain their brand's prestige.

There's a lot left to be desired in the fashion industry with regards to environmental concerns, so we decided to sit down with the Byron Bay-based Clothing Company named Afends who are beginning to incorporate hemp into their clothes.

Afends have a hemp-based range of clothing, as well as a miniseries on YouTube called H.E.M.P. which stands for Helping End Malicious Propaganda.

We sat down for an exclusive interview with Jono Salfield, the Co-Founder and Director of Afends to find out where hemp can fit into the fashion industry.

But before we dive into Afends, let's learn about the existing fashion industry.

 

The Fashion Industry

Fashion is everywhere.

Whether it be dressed-down, smart-casual, or a Gatsby-styled theme party, your fashion choice is largely considered a way to express yourself and the person you wish to be.

Growing at 5.5% per annum, Mckinsey estimates the fashion industry is worth $2.4 Trillion – Which makes sense considering how rarely people walk around in their birthday suits.

But the fashion industry isn't all catwalks, pouting and modelling, it also has a dark side: pollution.

According to the UN, the global fashion industry contributes roughly 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions – making it one of the worst industries for climate change.

Taking jeans as a common example, each pair uses 10,000 litres of water to produce the 1kg of cotton required to make the jeans.

And if those jeans don't end up getting sold, it's likely they'll end up in a landfill, or worse, burned.

For example, in 2017 the U.K. Trench coat manufacturer Burberry destroyed $37 million worth of unsold products.

Fashion is increasingly being recognised for its detrimental effects on the environment, to the extent that countries such as France have had to consider a ban on throwing out unsold clothes.

As a result, we've sat down with Afends, a Byron Bay-based company which is increasingly using hemp as a primary product.

 

Meet Afends

Started in Byron Bay in 2006 by Jono Salfield and Declan Wise, Afends was just like any other clothing brand, making their clothes out of cotton and linen.

It wasn't until five years ago, that co-founder Jono mentions seeing a darker side to the fashion industry.

"We started looking into what the fashion industry is, manufacturing clothes, and the harmful effects that can have on the environment and on the people, and started to get the idea that we want it to be a lot more responsible."

And in their search for responsibly made and ethically sourced fabrics, they found hemp.

"We started looking into hemp, the sustainable values and the sustainable features around hemp, the way that it can be grown in so many different environments, minimum amounts of water, no pesticides or herbicides and a lot of situations."

 

Afends Co-Founder and Director Jono Salfield

 

Since then, Afends has been building upon their hemp-range of clothing.

Beginning initially as a hemp-cotton blend with about 5% hemp, Afends' hemp range wasn't a hot seller.

This is primarily because hemp clothing is more expensive.

Though the heightened price is almost entirely due to lack of availability, something Jono believes will change as demand for hemp goes up.

And recently, Afends are seeing this shift firsthand with demands for their hemp supplies rising.

 

 

Some of Afends' Hemp-blend shorts

 

 

"Our hemp range was only about 5% hemp originally and it didn't sell well. Now, it's up to 30 to 40%, and the hemp range is our best selling. We get a lot of customers saying that they don't want to wear anything but hemp anymore."

The Hemp crop is one of the most efficient, least taxing plants to grow.

To grow cotton production requires 10,000 litres per kilo of cotton you wish to produce. In fact, in places where there's drought, farmers have had to cut back on their cotton production and have even faced death threats for growing the crop.

Meanwhile, hemp requires roughly half the amount of water per kilo, as well as producing 200-250% more fiber than cotton on the same amount of land.

Hemp also requires very little amounts of pesticides to grow, while cotton production contributes 25% of global pesticide use.

In fact, some theorize that the reason hemp has been illegal to cultivate all these years is largely because it is such a perfect crop.

A man named W.R. Hearst owned the largest newspaper country in the 1930's in America. He also happened to own a large acreage.

Should hemp have remained popular, the plant would be a threat to Hearst's newspaper & his acreage.

As a result, Hearst used the platform of his newspaper alongside Harry Anslinger, a politician at the time, to successfully peddle enough anti-cannabis propaganda to criminalize the plant and hemp by association.

On this topic, Jono mentions that we're still recovering.

 

It all stems from big business, right? You've got an industry, say, the paper industry. They've already set up all the machinery, they've got all the business, they've got all the meals, they've got the land. They've got everything there. Then if there's this other implicating thing called hemp, which is very easy to grow, farm and cultivate, then that's a big problem for these big already established companies."

– Jono Salfield, Afends Co-Founder and Director

 

Part of Afends' efforts to mobilize industries towards using hemp is their H.E.M.P video-series, which aims to dispel common misconceptions or propaganda surrounding hemp.

 

 

The motivation behind the series, Jono mentions, is to bring hemp out of the "dark ages" that prohibition and propaganda has kept it in, and popularize the plant once more.

And it isn't just the fashion industry that's been affected.

Hemp's versatility allows it to be used in foods, creams, textiles, plastics and even building materials.

On top of that, One hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 22 tonnes of CO2 per hectare, making the plant hugely beneficial towards climate change.

While discussing the benefits of hemp, Jono can't help but wonder where we would have been had hemp been legal this entire time.

 

 

"When you look at the old ten dollar bill, half of it was a farmer farming hemp, and it was all green, and it was all lush landscape.

"On the other side it's all polluting, big industry. It was like the industrial revolution coming through, and the dollar bill in America's split by the one, side's the hemp, which is the natural, the grain, environmentally friendly, substance."

 

"What would the world be like now if we had gone down more of an environmentally conscious frame of mind and down a more living-off-the-land way? Where would we be at now with climate change and all the major issues that we're going to have to overcome just because of few greedy businessmen? It's depressing."

– Jono Salfield, Director and Co-Founder of Afends

 

Though Afends is quickly finding a fellowship when it comes to hemp in fashion.

Levis has just released its Wellthread range, featuring a range of cotton-blended hemp clothing. Patagonia also has a hemp range on their website, exhibiting pants, shirts, shorts and more.

And as Jono informs us, the Chinese Army are big fans of hemp too.

Using Hemp as the primary fabric in their uniforms and socks, the Chinese Army is capitalizing on the anti-bacterial properties of hemp which can mitigate athlete's foot.

As far as we're concerned, the future of hemp in fashion can't come soon enough, given the hugely negative effects that the fashion and textiles industries have on the environment.

Afends hopes to continue leading the march.

"The way we're going, ideally every single product we make will have some form of hemp in it. Whether it's even 5% hemp in an item. For all our product line, we want to be using some portion of hemp as a blend in every single product we make. We want to continue to make more little webisodes series like the H.E.M.P. – helping eliminate malicious propaganda."

As we reach the tail-end of the Hemp Month here at The Green Fund, it's becoming abundantly clear that hemp is of enormous benefit to almost any industry it enters and will continue be a disruptive force for decades to come.

Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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