April 23, 2024


Amazing design, nonpareil

Manufacturer keen to find NZ source of hemp fibre for clothing


A New Zealand clothing brand spinning knitwear out of merino and hemp is hoping to drum up demand for a hemp fibre industry here.

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© Provided by Radio New Zealand
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The hemp plant that is grown for fibre is a slightly different variety to that used for other products. File photo Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

The new label, Hemprino, sells knitwear made from a single-blend of New Zealand merino and hemp.

Co-founder Siobhan O’Malley said locally grown hemp fibre for clothing isn’t available in this country yet, but she’s hoping that will change.

“The piece that’s missing in New Zealand at the moment is actually the processing, so taking the plant that’s grown and turning it into a usable fibre for apparel, or for packaging, or insulation, there’s a huge range of uses,” she said.

O’Malley said the company is working closely with agribusiness company Carrfields, which has partnered with Hemp NZ to research and develop the hemp fibre industry under a new company, New Zealand Natural Fibres.

“We’ve been in discussion with them the whole way through, ringing every six months asking if we’ve got apparel fibre from New Zealand yet.

“We’re just waiting, and we want to be their customer as soon as we can,” she said.

O’Malley said the company uses hemp fibre imported from China in its blend, but the merino is sourced locally and the products are manufactured in New Zealand.

She’s hoping the company will fuel the demand for locally grown hemp fibre, which she said can grow in a variety of conditions and could be an alternative for farmers looking for different land uses.

“In New Zealand we have been making big gains in terms of growing hemp for cosmetics, for food source, for oil, things like that,” she said.

“But our hemp plant that grows for fibre is a slightly different variety.

“Hemp plants grow amazingly in New Zealand and are really beneficial for our soils. As co-founders, we’re all farmers and we actually came at this thinking it would be an incredible plant to add diverse income to farms, but also to be beneficial to the soils in the land that we farm.”

The garments are also an alternative to fast-fashion, O’Malley said, as they’re biodegradable at the end of life.

“That’s one of the key drivers for us. There’s nothing worse than looking at those giant piles of garments in a landfill that are just never going to biodegrade, they’re never going anywhere,” she said.

“Lots of people don’t realise that in some merino products, that beautiful natural fibre is blended with an acrylic and as a result, it’s not biodegradable – it lives forever.

“That’s really what motivated us to try and look for alternatives to that and what led us to hemp fibre.

“I think people are starting to wake up to the idea that natural fibres are nicer to wear, they’re more pleasant next to your body, they last a long time. And also when they’re done, effectively you could put them in the compost heap and they would biodegrade and return to the soil.”



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