Hemp is not just for hippies

Photo: Greenloop

Hemp may be one of the most misunderstood plants around. The disinformation surrounding it is unfortunate, because this versatile plant can be used to make a number of green products. In fact, the non-narcotic strain, cannabis sativa, has been used for centuries to create everything from fabric and paper to rope.

It's come a long way since the '80s, when wearing hemp clothing was an act of eco righteousness, right up there with hugging trees and sorting your trash. Unfortunately, the first hemp clothing had the same texture as the hemp scouring pads being sold alongside them. The original 100% hemp hoodies looked like they'd been dipped in wax, while the 100% hemp T-shirts felt like wearing a loofa. Combine that with uninspired shades of beige and ugly styles and you can understand why the first hemp clothing looked as if the designers had been smoking too much of the other strain.

These days, though, hemp is hot and has hit the streets with a vengeance. The current designs are savvy and sophisticated enough to shake off the outdated hippy image once and for all. It certainly helped when Giorgio Armani featured hemp shirts, sweaters and a three-button suit in his Emporio Armani collection. And hemp's cachet is only getting stronger now that some designers have come up with hemp/organic-cotton blends that make T-shirts and workout clothes soft and supple.

B.C.-based HT Naturals (formerly HempTown) and its parent company, Naturally Advanced Technologies, has taken the industry one step further by inventing an enzyme that turns rough hemp into soft, fluffy material used for cosy hoodies and well-designed shorts. But Naturally Advanced has also begun creating private-label lines for many other stores that are looking to go green, so expect to start seeing them in stores near you.

Oregon-based Greenloop remains the forerunner in the new, hip hemp fashions. The epitome of eco chic, Greenloop showcases cutting-edge hemp clothing from new and up-and-coming designers. If you want to know the state of hemp in 2007, check out its online store, where you will find everything from Anna Cohen's hemp hot pants to coolnotcruel's sedate and business-like hemp/silk shirts. And nothing can top the sheer sexiness of hemp/silk cocktail dresses by both coolnotcruel and eco-design trailblazers Stewart + Brown. Other up and coming designers include Natural High Lifestyle, producing hemp yoga fashion with a Southern California flavour, and Satori Movement, a Northern California company producing beautiful hemp skate fashion.

From the yoga mat to the dance floor to the street, hemp has been reborn as one of the mainstays of the eco-conscious designers and consumers. So go ahead and do some guilt-free shopping!