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Fashionistas Spotlight Hemp as Go To For the Global Marketplace!


Hemp is anti-microbial by nature which means it won't transmit bacteria and it won't smell due to wear.

Africa is establishing its potential for dominance in the market for hemp clothing, with Several African countries actively involved in hemp production, leading the way by targeting an African American retail market South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, and Zimbabwe!


There is a new industry around an old, quick-growing agricultural favorite able to be turned into almost anything you can grind, lounge or sleep in. Diasporic farmers around the world are embracing this so called trillion dollar crop that provides fast gains. But before you upgrade your wardrobe with sustainable hemp clothing, you might want to know more about the interesting history behind the hemp fashion industry the world is "growing" to love.


As the legalization of marijuana spreads from state to state in the USA it was still blocked by outdated colonial laws placed on African economies to enable foreign interests to maintain an economic foothold, but in some nations on the largest continent we are seeing the long-awaited, widespread legalization of industrial hemp. Often associated with its close psychoactive relative, hemp was banned in the United States when the plant was swept up in anti-marijuana propaganda funded by Hearst and Dupont to make sure their respective wasteful lumber paper and Chemical Nylon industries had no competition from the small farmer.


Propaganda films like “Reefer Madness” assured hemp’s demise and when Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. The tax and licensing regulations of hemp made cultivation nearly impossible for American farmers. Industrial hemp used to be a boon for the farming economy and has been cultivated for multiple millennia. The use of hemp started around 8,000 B.C. and continued through different societies for different industrial purposes.


In Africa, the history of hemp production can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where it was used for various purposes, including the production of ropes, textiles, and sails for boats, while the seeds were consumed as food and the oil was used for medicinal purposes (Clarke and Merlin 2013). In the 16th century, the British naval fleet finally caught on and cultivated hemp extensively to supply their constant construction of battleships. The US in the 1700s made it a law that all farmers must grow hemp and its Eco-friendly paper made from hemp was used to make the declaration of Independence, maps, travel logs, and even bibles brought on board while hemp fiber made rope, sails, and uniforms for sailors.


For a brief period in World War II, given the proven dexterity of hemp, the United States government was forced to rethink their agenda, creating a call to action with the release of the film “Hemp for Victory,” motivating American Farmers to grow hemp for uniforms, canvas, and rope.

In response to the war effort, one million acres of hemp were grown across the Midwest. Quickly after the war, all of the hemp processing plants were shut down and the industry disappeared. Hemp is a crop that can take the power out of the hands of the elite and give access to the farmer to become wealthy! Over 25,000 different products can be made from hemp, making it one of the most useful crops in the world. In fact the first American Blue jeans were made from hemp and designed and manufactured by the Africans enslaved.


A half a century before Levi Strauss put metal tabs on the blue pants sewn by the enslaved people in the American South. The garment of hemp fabric called “tow-cloth”, and like a “tow-rope” it was woven out of hemp fibers. Tow-cloth was cheap and virtually indestructible the coarse textile most commonly known as “slave cloth.” was dyed blue. The blue hue of jeans resulted from an arduous dyeing process using the indigo plant. At that time Indigo and hemp were almost synonymous with slavery even the first Cowboys (who were Black and Indigenous) wore the blue pants synonymous with the enslaved and indentured classes.


While indigo traces its roots to India, the African slave trade made it exceedingly valuable on that continent. "Indigo was more powerful than the gun," It was used literally as a currency. They were trading one length of cloth, in exchange for one human body."(Mckinley) Because of its high value as a trading commodity, indigo was often referred to as blue gold. Throughout West Africa, Indigo was the foundation of centuries-old textile traditions. From the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara to Cameroon, clothes dyed with indigo signified wealth but in the America's at that time it signified the clothing of the working poor and slavery. The first indigo dyed hemp clothing was the uniform of the enslaved, called “Negro cloth,” and deemed unfit for anyone to wear but the enslaved Black Indigenous American and enslaved African people.


As of 2024 the global industrial hemp market size is projected to grow from $8.90 billion in 2023 to $41.98 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 24.11% during the forecast period.


THE AFRICAN DESIGNERS

Priya Ahluwalia, the London born Indian-Nigerian designer behind the upcycled menswear brand, Ahluwalia Studio, went from a stint at Beyoncé's IVY Park to pursuing a masters in menswear from the University of Westminster. While there, she was challenged to alleviate fashion's problem with waste. Trips to both Lagos, Nigeria and Panipat, India, where she was met with piles of surplus clothes, further ignited a flame in her to attempt to combat the issue.


Her Spring/Summer 2019 graduate collection, made in collaboration with the Indian women's union SEWA Delhi, was her answer. The trench coats, oversized denim jackets, and vintage football jerseys were all produced using second hand clothing. She would go on to show at London Fashion Week, be featured in Vogue, win an H&M Design Award, and more recently, collaborate with Adidas Originals. Today, she continues to the tradition of Hemp fabric usage and of ethical methodologies to fashion.


HempLove is a female owned ethical slow fashion brand based in the heart of Cape Town, South Africa. HEMPLOVE a brand that believe sustainable fashion can make a difference in the health of our planet and for future generations to live in a cleaner, greener environment. based on honesty, transparency and a shared passion for nature and the environment. From the fair trade raw material sourcing, designing and manufacturing process, the environmental footprint and the devoted involvement in local communities throughout Africa to promote sustainable fashion at every step is commendable. HEMPLOVE is a company started by women, their passion to promote and improve the skills sets of women in Africa and bring sustainable fashion to international platforms where it can be recognized. As a part of the sustainable movement in Africa they lead by example and set standards for other like-minded individuals to join the sustainable revolution.


Buki Akomolafe's eponymous A Berlin-based but African centered contemporary women's clothing line prides itself on a hint of androgyny, meticulous tailoring and high quality eco materials like certified cotton, organic Hemp-Silk, and african wax prints. The line purposefully juxtaposes Europe and the African continent; an homage to Buki's two worlds.


Mayamiko is an ethical and sustainable womenswear and lifestyle brand headed by Paola Masperi. The brand's clothes, accessories and homewares are made in Malawi by a team of artisans. Mayamiko aims to assist the most disadvantaged people in Malawi by nurturing their creative talents, while giving them the means to feed their families.


The most formidable countries in growing the African Hemp Industry are South Africa, Ghana and Malawi. Malawi is especially astute in promoting hemp foods, oils and textiles simultaneously! With the decline of tobacco in the region, cannabis Sativa industrial Hemp (not to be confused with marijuana (as the two cannot be grown in the same area as industrial hemp will take over) became an exciting complimentary crop with the capability to produce food, shelter, textiles, medicines and cosmetics for people in Africa. It is especially profitable because it improves land quality of the soil and doesn't require large amounts of water or pesticides.


Because Hemp as three to four growing seasons annually the ultimate objectives are to see Industrial Hemp adopted as a viable cash crop in Malawi and throughout the region, and to see Malawians benefiting greatly from its products on both a health and economic level. In February 2020 the government passed the Cannabis Act (2020) that legalized the farming of hemp for industrial and medicinal use. It established the regulating entity, the Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA), that issued licenses to manage the industry at large.


Ghanaian Designer Abrima Erwiah co-founded eco-friendly label Studio 189 with actress Rosario Dawson. Together they work with local artisans in Accra to produce garments. The craftsmen use plant based dye, hand-batik and kente weaving. The brand partners with the United Nations ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, NYU School of Business and has worked with LVMH and Net a Porter.


Hemp is a fast-growing, multi-use, sustainable crop. It is also one of the most durable – three times stronger than cotton – and breathable natural fibers. When compared to cotton – the most commonly used natural fiber – the crop itself requires half the amount of land to cultivate hemp compared to cotton and uses 50% less water than cotton per season. Importantly, it can also be used as an intermediate crop to remediate the soil, keeping it fertile. And, it is absorbent, which allows it to accept dyes readily and retain color better than other natural fabrics. These qualities make hemp ideal for brands looking to create long-lasting garments that can be worn across many seasons and many years.

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