We had an interesting conversation with Linde Snijders, manager@HempFlax, responsible for textile applications within HempFlax. Linde herself has also made some prototypes and thus expertise in working with hemp material. She is an overall enthusiast about this wonderful plant and works with multiple partners from different industries working with hemp.
“Unfortunately, we often see alternatives that have been sustainably produced but are not always fashionable or of great quality. ”

Part II. Not only sustainable, also better.

VLinde often visits conferences, such as that of the EIHA (European Industrial Hemp Association) for HempFlax. She tells us that people out of the industry are very excited about new products made of hemp. However, these are also people that very much like to promote hemp and are aware of the necessity to find alternatives for conventional raw materials such as cotton. We have encountered this shared vision before within networks and organisations which are occupied with sustainability. On the contrary, the end consumer seems to be holding back a bit due to the difference in price when compared to cotton products. Hemp products are often being compared to cotton products pushed forth by large fast fashion chains such as H&M & Primark. Here the consequences that these forms of mass production entail are completely ignored.  

“And what many people don’t know and which you simply show clearly, is that cotton is just bad for the world. Many people just aren’t aware of this.”

For us as HMPLB it’s different. Where the comparison is often being made with ‘cheap products’, we aim to manifest ourselves as a brand which creates premium textile products made of hemp. So the comparison with chains which mass produce is invalid in that sense, because we are not active in the same segment. It is not our goal to compete with the lowest prices, but to offer authentic organic products. Still the direct comparison with cotton is all too often being made. Which in a sense, is not even strange when one considers how many products are really being made out of cotton. We have simply grown so used to it.

How do we take steps towards an alternative such as hemp, which is not only better in terms of sustainability but also holds many user benefits?

“Look, transferring the world to 100% hemp instantly is simply not feasible. It’s just like with another project we are currently occupied with regarding plastic. Nowadays we also combine plastic with hemp, which is also just 30 to 40 percent hemp, but still, imagine replacing a large amount of plastic by adding 30 or 40 percent hemp, it’s still a huge amount. Part of it is also step by step and little by little.”

As HMPLB we do focus on 100% hemp products. However this does demand a fundamentally different design philosophy than many other brands. Instead of starting at the product, we start at the material. We check which material is available and are continuously looking for the best hemp, to decide what we can create with it, instead of initially thinking of a product and then attempt to create this out of hemp. We do agree with Linde that this shift to more sustainable fibers will not transpire in and out of itself. Therefore it’s so good to see that parties such as HempFlax are prepared to journey through this development together with us. We would also like to inspire you, as readers, to let your opinion be heard so together we can find new answers.



Full Traceability

Together with Linde we share the ambition to localize the production of hemp products more locally. Currently our entire production takes place within the EU, but through these conversations and knowledge sharing we want to invest in hemp within The Netherlands. For example, we would also like to establish a complete small scale hemp production chain in The Netherlands. Not even with the aim of running large-scale production, but mainly to provide future generations with insights and the knowhow about how we can work with this special raw material. At the moment HempFlax is also working on the full traceability of their products, by using blockchain technology in collaboration with Novatrace, a company which makes the full traceability of products possible.

“At the moment the full traceability system is only being used on our CBD products, in collaboration with CAN. By scanning a QR code, customers can find all information about the product; from seed, to end product, including associated analyzes. It’s great that people can view this information and therefore know what they are buying. Such a system is naturally also great for hemp textile products. As it also allows someone to see whether it has been chemically processed or not.” 

Made in Europe

The hemp fiber value chain consists out of various steps, which are often executed by a variety of organisations. We often see that these chains are also geographically far apart of each other. Spinning mills are often found in Romania, Turkey or even further away; in Asia. To stimulate the growth of hemp as a raw material and natural resource within the textile industry, you want to improve the way these various parts collaborate and maybe even bring them closer together. >

Is it realistic to realize scalable hemp production at a local level now?

“I think we should establish it a little more broadly; namely on a European level.”

Besides The Netherlands we, HMPLB and HempFlax, work together with partners in Romania; from local farmers to large production facilities. Where many countries at one point in time stopped developing and processing hemp, in Romania they always continued cultivating hemp and producing with it. Because of this a beautiful combination of traditional methods and modern technologies exists in Romania. This unique combination allows the Romanians to produce beautiful soft and suitable fibers, without the use of chemicals within the process. Both Linde and ourselves are very excited about these collaborations with Romania. Linde also mentions that ‘Made in Europe’ products are becoming more and more attractive to consumers.

“Your attitude is also fantastic and I think we should keep in touch, especially because you are also situated in The Netherlands and also have the goal to create a beautiful European product.”


Sustainability is the new luxurious

Apart from the fact that the both of us want to make a positive impact on the world with hemp, we are both companies and therefore strive to achieve commercial success. Based on this perspective it’s not only important for us to contribute to a more sustainable world and future, but also simply to create beautiful and premium quality products for people. It goes without saying that this may never be at the expense of ecological and social norms.

“Many parties insist that their product is ecological, organic. I don’t think that should be the main reason. Unfortunately we still often see alternatives that have been developed extremely sustainably, but are not always fashionable or of an appealing quality. People also simply want a good quality product. We promote that we have a beautiful, better and high-quality product. Oh yes, and it is also processed in an organic, ecological manner.”


Based on our conversation with Linde, the price remains a stumbling block which stands in the way of the transition to a more sustainable planet. But, when we consider the luxury that we are prepared to pay a high price for, shouldn’t we ask ourselves whether sustainability is not synonymous with authentic natural luxury? We need to get rid of the stigma that natural fibers such as hemp are alternative. We therefore hope that more and more people will see the endless beauty and potential of hemp as a raw material, when we break through this stigma.

“People still have the idea that it’s all very alternative. While hemp in particular allows you to create very chic and modern items.”

We believe our inspiring conversation with Linde can help break the price and luxury stigma. Together we can create a balance between people, the planet and the economy.

“To prepare for the future, we must be willing to test new concepts. This means we must acquire enough information to evaluate these concepts and not be like travelers in a foreign land who compare everything with their own hometown.” - Jacque Fresco

 

Bronnen:

https://www.hempflax.com/

https://www.hempflax.com/en/hempplant/

Definities:

Grondstof- Raw material

the basic material from which a product is made

Halffabrikaat - Semi-finished product

semi-finished products are goods, such as partly finished goods, used as inputs in the production of other goods including final goods.

Hennepvezel

de draden van de hennepstengel waarvan hennep garen gesponnen wordt

Steam explosion

In the steam explosion process, hemp fibers are placed in a steam barrel and pressurized, in order to convert them into a wooly substance, which a spinning mill can then spin yarns out of. All of this without water or hazardous substances.

Enzyme - Enzymatic

A compound, (partly) built of proteine, which catalyses a very specific biochemical reaction.

Value chain

A sequence of activities in which a value-adding activity takes place within each link of the process.

Traceability

Traceability is the possibility of retrieving the product batch and its history by gaining insight into the entire or partial production chain of raw materials obtained through transport, storage, processes, distribution to sale (chain traceability) or internally in one of these steps of the chain; for example the production process.

Natural fibers

Material with a natural origin used for textiles.