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Cone Denim Debuts US Hemp Denim with BastCore

The Rivet 50 is calling for nominations for leaders in the denim industry in 5 categories: design, influencer, leadership, sustainability and supply chain. Nominations close on May 23.

Cone Denim’s latest collaboration touts the benefits of U.S. agriculture. The denim mill worked with hemp processing company BastCore on a first-to-market collection of 3×1 and comfort stretch fabrics made with Alabama-grown hemp and U.S. cotton and dyed with natural indigo grown in Tennessee.

This marks BastCore’s first mill partnership to-date.

The Alabama-based company developed a process for producing clean, mechanically processed, Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified and USDA bio-preferred hemp fiber. It signed the first U.S. hemp fiber supply contract in 2017 enabling it to process domestically grown textile-grade hemp fiber for California-based retailer Recreator Hemp Apparel. Since then, it has helped bridge the gap between farmers growing hemp and industries demanding cost-competitive, sustainably produced raw materials, and in 2021 joined the CanopyStyle program promoting “next generation” alternatives for viscose.

According to Austin Bryant, managing director of BastCore, Cone Denim’s 130-year track record of leading the industry toward sustainable innovations made it an attractive debut partner. Last year, the mill worked with sustainable denim design consultant Miles Johnson and Italian garment finishing company Tonello on a collection featuring hemp, as well as natural indigo, organic cotton, recycled cotton and sustainable natural dyes. It was also the first denim mill to use Oritain’s cotton tracing technology, which helps verify that cotton is sourced responsibly. Oritain has mapped more than 90 percent of the world’s cotton and used the technology to ensure that its products do not contain any cotton from prohibited regions.

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“Developing new products is not easy and involves a number of challenges and obstacles,” Bryant said. “The expertise and passion of Cone’s product teams provided great collaboration in navigating through those challenges to bring the many advantages of hemp fibers to denim.”

The denim industry has long explored the benefits of hemp, with Pakistani vertical denim manufacturer AGI Denim recently entering a global production deal with Panda Biotech, a developer of large-scale, industrial hemp gin facilities. Kontoor Brands, which owns Lee and Wrangler, also partnered with the hemp company to scale its use of cottonized hemp grown and processed in the U.S. Heritage denim brand Levi’s has also supported the use of the crop for years, and in 2019 debuted denim featuring 30 percent hemp through its Wellthread line of sustainable products. In 2021, it upped its hemp count to 55 percent in a range of men’s and women’s Trucker Jackets, and men’s 502 Taper jeans.

BastCore reports that the fiber uses 50 percent less water than cotton, and uses no chemicals or wet processing. It’s also known for its durability and antimicrobial properties and high rates of carbon sequestration, which improves soil health.

Cone Denim’s partnership with BastCore will help it fulfill a number of goals, including saving 140 million gallons of water per year and supporting the American agriculture industry.

“U.S. farmers have world-class sustainable growing practices and produce quality products used in Cone’s denims including cotton, corn for sizing starch, natural plant-based indigo, and more recently, hemp,” said Steve Maggard, Cone Denim president. “We are proud to support the American agriculture industry and work alongside like-minded partners who share our passion and commitment.”