Eco-lumn: A Conversation with the Founder of Stemp About the Uses of Hemp in Fashion

At Blush and at FIT, sustainability is a major cause we care about. Eco-lumn (a play on the words eco and column) serves to inform our readers on the ongoing changes and advances within the sustainability movement throughout the world.

Hemp plant growing outdoors

“Stemp is rooted in Kathmandu and has branched out all over the world and currently operates out of New York City. We make chic clothes from Hemp, an eco-friendly & sustainable plant that is used to create some of the world’s finest products.”

How was starting your business in Kathmandu? When did you have a strong enough foundation to branch out to NYC?

The company was actually born in NYC back in 2013. We first started selling accessories and did so for a year. We were eager to grow, so we quit our jobs in NYC to move back to Nepal and set up a design + manufacturing house in Kathmandu. Within 2 months of setting up, Nepal was hit by one of the largest earthquakes the country had seen which halted our operations for a year and resulted in a lot of monetary and material loss. This was followed by an Embargo by India (where 70% of Nepal’s raw materials come from) causing another halt in our production. Against all odds, we rebuilt our factory, hired a fully functional operation team, set up our design and manufacturing studio and finally came back to NYC in 2017 with our very first
organic hemp clothing line.

Where do you source your fabric from? (Do you buy yarn/material or is Stemp involved in the hemp farming process?)

In the starting years, we sourced our Hemp fabrics mostly from Nepal and China. In 2018, we decided to only source the yarn from China and make the fabrics our self in Nepal. We currently manufacture our own hemp / cotton/ bamboo blend woven fabrics and source knitted hemp fabrics locally and sometimes internationally as well.

Man in Stemp walks through outdoor area

How different are the expenses for a company being run sustainably compared to fast fashion?

Very! Organic and sustainably grown fibers usually tend to be more expensive. Add to that hemp, another costly fabric (although, Hemp is one of the cheapest and economical crop to grow!). As the laws of supply and demand state, when demand is high, supply is usually low which results in higher cost. As the demand for sustainable fibers are on the rise, the supply has not met the demand as yet, so the cost of organic products are still expensive. However, we hope that the supply for organic and sustainable textiles & materials increases as the world takes another step closer towards sustainability and the demand increases.

What particular ways does Stemp cut down on excess waste in accordance to the
fashion industry?

We up-cycle a lot. We are constantly brainstorming on ideas to use our excess materials. As a matter of fact, while manufacturing our first collection, we had a lot of fabrics that would potentially fill the landfills. So, we decided to upcycle them by making bow ties, which turned out to be one of our top sellers to date!

What is your message to textile lovers who think polyester is the future?

If you look at the content of polyester, it basically uses harmful chemicals including carcinogens, and if emitted to water and air untreated, can cause significant environmental damage. So all the polyester lovers, think for yourselves. Polyester is the past, Hemp is the future! 😉

Woman in Stemp Clothing walking through Central Park

What makes hemp healthier for you? Your skin, body, lifestyle?

Hemp is very breathable and very good for one’s skin (contrary to the misconception that Hemp irritates) CBD, a key ingredient of Hemp is one of the most sought after natural alternative for medicines today. Clothing made from hemp is lightweight yet three times stronger than cotton and is super absorbent, durable and long-lasting. As a matter of fact, Hemp is UV and mold-resistant! One of the reasons why Hemp is considered the most sustainable and economical crops out there is due to the fact that it can grow anywhere and everywhere, without pesticides and little water. And best of all, Hemp is 100% biodegradable!

Do you use natural dyes in addition to natural materials? If so, which dye methods?
We experimented a lot with natural (flower petal) and vegetable dye and even launched a collection with it. Because we had not perfected the technology, some colors tend to fade away, so we halted using vegetable dyes for now. However, this is something we are constantly working on, and hope to release all our future collections with only vegetable dyes!

Which parts of production do you have in the U.S? What do you outsource?
Our Design, PR and Marketing team operate from U.S. while our Production & Merchandising team runs from Nepal. Apart from out sourcing the yarns, we control most of our supply chain, from manufacturing our fabric to selling the final products to our customers.

Did you always want to find a career in sustainability and/or fashion?
I was always intrigued and in awe of the fashion industry. My passion for sustainability
increased dramatically after working for a Toronto-based, organic, home goods company. Soon after I combined my passion and set out on a mission to be wholly involved in promoting sustainability in the fashion industry.

Man standing next to styled Stemp mannequins

Where do you see the future of fashion going?
I’m very excited for the future of fashion especially with the technical advancement we’ve been making, from 3D fabric printing to the use of technology, not only in our garments, but throughout the supply chain. I believe the future of fashion lies in our ability to use technology to create sustainable raw materials, such as making leather from mushroom and plastic from banana leaf!

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