Shaking off decades of stigma promulgated by a prohibition culture, hemp, cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) are stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight while driving considerable economic growth across myriad industries.
Passage of the latest Farm Bill will likely open the floodgates on fashion’s experimentation with hemp-based fabrications and lift the industrial hemp market to $10.6 billion by 2025, according to data from Grand View Research. On top of that, the research firm expects the market for legalized marijuana to expand at a combined annual growth rate of 34.6 percent to reach $146.4 billion over that same timeframe, powered in part by growing mainstream acceptance of a culture and lifestyle once associated with hippes.
Already, marijuana is legal in 10 states plus the District of Columbia—while 33 allow for medicinal symptom relief in cancer, multiple sclerosis and other diseases—and the Marijuana Policy Project indicates that 10 more states are “strongly considering” legalizing recreational usage this year. Amid a wellness craze that’s seen yoga studios dot urban city blocks and green juice bars become nearly as ubiquitous as Starbucks, CBD product makers are eager to join the fray and proclaim the many therapeutic and relaxation benefits that the cannabis- or hemp-derived oil is purported to offer.
With CBD gummies the third trending food search on Google for all of 2018, it’s hard to ignore the consumer demand for products that help them take the edge off and fit into a lifestyle centered around feeling good in the moment. CBD found its way into the gifting suite during Academy Awards week, where entertainment insiders at the Beverly Hills W Hotel event found Canna Hemp’s CBD Relief Cream and CBD Elixir on offer.
There are signs, too, that CBD products could help turnaround some of the ongoing turmoil in brick-and-mortar retail. Green Growth Brands (GGB)—one of the largest owners of CBD consumer products, helmed by apparel retail veterans from Limited Brands, American Eagle Outfitters and DSW—signed a deal with Simon Property Group to open 108 stores nationwide.
The first of those stores in Lexington, Ky., sells Seventh Sense CBD-infused bath and body care goods, from lip balm and sugar scrubs to facial oil and muscle balm. In announcing the news, Simon Malls president John Rulli said the GGB shops are precisely the kind of “cutting-edge concepts” the company wants to have fill its vacancies and rub shoulders with desirable established retailers. The experience of shopping at GGB, Rulli went on to say, is “exactly the type of innovation our customers want and expect from us.”
Not only are CBD brands opening up dedicated storefronts but these feel-good products are also finding a home inside traditional retailers. Footwear retailer DSW turned heads in January when it announced that it would sell GGB’s Seventh Sense branded foot creams and more, which sold through 74.4 percent of product during a 10-week test phase. In announcing the partnership, DSW CEO Roger Rawlins described “North America’s widespread adoption of the use of CBD products” as one of many shifts in consumer behavior and interests compelling the retail industry to adapt. Headline writers had fun insinuating that these CBD goodies would “take the stress out of shoe shopping.”
Shopaholic, a three-story women’s fashion boutique chain in the St. Augustine, Fla. area, will begin selling three HempMeds CBD hemp oil products—including liquids, capsules and topicals, alongside a selection of dresses, blouses, pants, accessories and jewelry—in addition to 38 other retailers that have signed on to sell the Medical Marijuana Inc.-owned brand’s lifestyle offerings.
Even a list of 2019’s hottest emerging tech jobs bears out the cannabis industry’s undeniable growth explosion—and influence. On small business resource cite, Fitsmallbusiness.com’s list of 15 Hottest Emerging Tech Jobs, “director of cannabis technology” takes the No. 6 spot and boasts an average annual salary of $158,500, alongside more typical techie titles like “blockchain developer,” “big data architect” and “machine learning engineer.”
In the race to normalize and brand CBD culture, Cannabrand has emerged as what it claims is the world’s first full-service cannabis marketing agency while Prima, a “science-driven plant wellness brand” that will publish original content and make beauty and wellness products, raised close to $3.3 million on its way to becoming the world’s first certified CBD B Corp.
Prima co-founder Christopher Gavigan knows a thing or two about starting big brands; together with Jessica Alba he launched The Honest Company, now valued around $1 billion, and wants to leverage his new startup to clear up the “element of confusion surrounding how and why we should use CBD and hemp cannabinoids.” As an industry in its infancy, the world of CBD “needs leadership and CPG sophistication,” according to Gavigan, who sees Prima as “more than content or commerce, and more than a ‘craze’ or an exploding industry, but as a re-imagination of living in balance and living better.”
Better living might be what Barneys New York wants for well-heeled customers who peruse a curated selection of design-first CBD paraphernalia and products from Beboe at the luxury chain’s new cannabis lifestyle shop, “The High End.” In a statement announcing the news, the department store’s president and CEO Daniella Vitale echoed the DSW executive’s sentiment on the fluidity of consumer culture. “Barneys New York has always been at the forefront of shifts in culture and lifestyle, and cannabis is no exception,” she said, adding that The High End gives customers the CBD experience they want with the service for which Barneys is famous.
Fashion just might get a hit of CBD in the near future. At Heimtextil in January, textile finishing firm Devan Chemicals showcased its R-Vital fabric treatment infused with microencapsulated CBD, which it claims helps to promote better sleep. The company said the treatment is suitable for products ranging from bedding to pajamas, and CEO Sven Ghyselinck confirmed that it works with most apparel fabrics, including denim, cotton, polyester and Lycra. Contact between skin and the fabric breaks the microcapsules, releasing the CBD product for absorption into the body’s largest organ. Tighter-fitting, close-to-skin products make better use of the CBD treatment, Ghyselinck explained, as looser garments wouldn’t sufficiently create enough friction to stimulate the CBD release.
Devan’s patented solution is designed to withstand “a major part of the lifetime of the garment” or about 20 washes, though laundering at colder temperatures could prolong the CBD’s longevity. Of the women’s athleisure and sleepwear brands, and general sportswear clothiers that have inquired about the CBD treatment, a few are already trialing the textile finish, and some are on track to go to market this year, according to Ghyselinck.
Denim seems like a natural next step for products like CBD-infused R-Vital. Blue jeans have long been part and parcel of the creative life, and cannabis and its ilk are nothing if not the currency of numerous creators. There’s an intuitive interplay between denim and CBD. What’s more, it’s easy to see why festival-goers would covet great-fitting jeans that also help them get blissed-out for the big act. Then there’s the more straightforward option of blending hemp fibers with cotton, or using hemp outright, to produce a more earth-friendly jean, as brands like Nurmi, Rawganique and Dash Hemp have done.
More than anything, CBD and its cousins are a lifestyle that’s resonating with consumers hungry for a new attitude and new kind of wellness derived from nature. Denim should take a cue from trailblazing brands and retailers to map out its own path to the high life.