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Beekeepers and Farmhands Field Tested This New Hemp Workwear

Sustainability-focused menswear brand Taylor Stitch is rolling out a collaboration with one of the nation’s leading agricultural organizations.

On Friday, the San Francisco company, which deals in rugged men’s staples like shirts, pants, outerwear and footwear, launched a capsule collection inspired by its partnership with the Rodale Institute, a nonprofit that promotes organic and regenerative farming. Entrepreneur Jerome Irving Rodale founded the 75-year-old organization in 1940 to keep farming free of pollutive, soil-degrading chemicals that limit biodiversity.

Taylor Stitch teamed up with the institute’s animal managers, beekeepers and farm operations workers—who mind a 333-acre farm in Kutztown, Pa.—to test new items from its Boss Duck line of responsibly made workwear. Shop shirts, camp pants and chore pants made primarily from hemp, as well as recycled polyester and organic cotton, were put through the paces for six months.

Farmers and researchers tested Taylor Stitch's Boss Duck line for six months.
Farmers and researchers tested Taylor Stitch’s Boss Duck line for six months. Jillian Guyette

“The Boss Duck range of workwear products has been in the Taylor Stitch line up for about two years, but they were the first group to field test this range for the brand at this scale,” Luke McAlpine, senior director of brand and partnerships at Taylor Stitch, told Sourcing Journal. “We’ve had winemakers, craftsmen, carpenters, car and motorcycle builders working in them prior but the Rodale team truly had the most extensive wear and testing with the garments at this point.”

With the garments’ quality and durability confirmed, Taylor Stitch crafted two limited-edition navy and white color ways of its 70-percent cotton, 30-percent hemp T-shirt for the Taylor Stitch x Rodale Institute For The Common Good capsule. Spanish painter Dani Vergés’s “Give to Get” image, representing the cyclical nature of regenerative agriculture, is printed on the garments.

A portion of the sales from the T-shirts will be donated to the Rodale Institute’s research and education efforts. Retailing for $38, the garments will be sold on the Taylor Stitch e-commerce site as well as select wholesale retailers, McAlpine said.

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“We’re proud to share a common purpose with the dedicated farmers, educators, and researchers of Rodale Institute,” Taylor Stitch wrote in a statement. “They’ve been leading the charge toward regenerative organic agricultural practices for decades, and it’s thanks in part to their trailblazing work that a brand like ours has access to the information and the infrastructure needed to pursue seed-to-sew responsibility.”

The menswear brand prides itself on the use of responsibly sourced materials and fabrics, from organic cotton to a blend of upcycled cotton and recycled polyester, yak wool, merino wool, deadstock fabrics, leather from Leather Working Group-certified tanneries, and heavy-duty hemp (as seen in the Boss Duck range).

The use of hemp as a high-performance, low-impact alternative to cotton is catching on in fashion, especially in recent seasons. Levi’s integrated a cottonized hemp fabrication into its line last year, and plans accelerate its use of hemp while cutting back on cotton, a water-intensive, soil-depleting crop. Madewell tapped hemp for summer-weight denim while Panda Biotech, a hemp fiber producer, partnered with Oritain to make its product traceable. The cannabis-derived fiber has also found uses in footwear, with Bay Area-based Rothy’s launching a line of hemp shoes and accessories in July.

“The environmental benefits are almost inherent to the material, which makes it really supportive of our carbon footprint mitigation goals,” Saskia van Gendt, the brand’s head of sustainability, told Sourcing Journal at the time. “It’s really exciting because it’s natural, but it’s also considered a regenerative crop.”

Earlier this year, Patagonia launched an extensive campaign to “Bring Hemp Home,” partnering with farmers in Colorado’s San Luis Valley to bolster production of the crop on U.S. soil. The outdoor brand, which has sourced its hemp from China since 1997, said it hoped to develop a stateside pipeline for the crop since the 2018 Farm Bill made industrial hemp legal to grow again in most states.

According to Taylor Stitch, new materials and blends like the hemp formulation used in its Boss Duck line are developed and tested through its Workshop program. Each month, the brand’s designers offer a new capsule of products for pre-order at a discounted price. By selling the items before they enter production, the brand can fund the manufacturing process and ensure that it is producing to demand, rather than risk crafting unwanted finished goods. Shoppers are rewarded for their participation—which provides Taylor Stitch with valuable consumer insights—at the close of each campaign, with deals and access to future product drops.

The menswear label also offers a “long haul guarantee” that it will repair or replace damaged or defective items, and extends free mending tutorials and in-store gear repairs. The company’s Restitch take-back program allows consumers to send back their used items—even those that are “completely thrashed”— for store credit. Repairable goods are resold, while those that have reached their end-of-life are put toward other uses.