Levi’s is dabbling in hemp. The heritage brand announced this week that it is introducing a new form of “cottonized hemp” in the Spring ’19 Levi’s Wellthread x Outerknown collaboration available now.
Garments in the collection include jeans and a Trucker jacket made with 70 percent cotton and 30 percent hemp that it says has been altered to feel just like cotton. The hemp was sourced from a rain-fed hemp crop and thereby reduced the water used in fiber cultivation by roughly 30 percent.
Touting the environmental benefits of hemp, Levi’s says it plans to use the fiber in more garments in the near future. Hemp requires less water and land in the growing phase and has roughly half the carbon footprint of conventionally grown cotton.
However, the rough texture of hemp has prevented it from being widely adopted in the apparel industry. To overcome that obstacle, Levi’s said it employed “a process developed by fiber technology specialists that softens the hemp, giving it a look and feel that is almost indistinguishable from cotton.”
“We know hemp is good for the environment, but it has always felt coarse,” said Paul Dillinger, vice president of product innovation at Levi’s. “This is the first time we’ve been able to offer consumers a cottonized hemp product that feels just as good, if not better, than cotton.”
Buzz is building around the potential of hemp as a cotton alternative. At the end of 2018, a farm bill was signed into law that legalized the growth of hemp in the United States. Analysts predict that the hemp market, currently valued at around $800 million, will be worth $20 billion by 2022.
The partnership between Levi’s Wellthread and Outerknown, the sustainable clothing company founded by professional surfer Kelly Slater, is in its fourth season. Previous collaborations focused on jeans made with Levi’s water-conserving Water < Less fabric and recyclable trims.
The Spring ’19 line also includes a T-shirt made from recycled jeans, a western shirt made with a cotton and hemp blend, and a fully recyclable nylon board short. All of the materials used for the short, from fabric to eyelets and stitching, are made from nylon.
All garments in the collection were crafted in facilities that participate in Levi Strauss & Co.’s Worker Well Being initiative, which offers workers health and planning advice, along with financial education programs.