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Leon Kaye headshot

Get Over the Hemp: Jungmaven Is Pushing Apparel Companies to Embrace This Regenerative Crop

The founders of Jungmaven are determined to see that the manufacturing of textiles becomes more regenerative than polluting — with hemp being the key.
By Leon Kaye

After 80 years of misguided agricultural policy toward hemp, the 2018 Farm Bill was a game-changer. The production of hemp within the U.S. is now legal, but there’s a long road ahead before we see more hemp fibers in apparel. Supporters of the hemp industry have long touted the crop’s environmental benefits over those of cotton and synthetic fibers. To that end, the founders of the clothing brand Jungmaven, based in Vancouver, Washington, say they’re determined to see that the manufacturing of textiles becomes more regenerative than polluting. It’ll take a while, however, for other clothing brands to get over the hump — or shall we say, hemp.

Hemp, the underrated textile fiber

So, why use hemp? The cultivation and production of hemp actually had a long track record in the U.S. until legislation in the 1930s, and later, the 1970s, banned its cultivation as policymakers equated hemp with the other varietal of cannabis, marijuana. Centuries ago, slaves on George Washington’s and Thomas Jefferson’s plantations grew hemp — partly for its versatility, partly because Virginians could pay their taxes in hemp during the 18th century. The parachute that saved former president George H. W. Bush’s life during World War II was reportedly lined with a hemp-based material. But during the 20th century, policymakers became freaked out over use of “Marihuana,” and all forms of cannabis got a bad rap.

Now, the data is out why hemp is a compelling crop for both farmers and consumers. Hemp offers many uses, from food to rope to paper. Certain varieties are drought-resistant, important in the western U.S., where water scarcity has become less of a problem and more of a crisis. As a phyto-remediation crop, hemp has the ability to repair the soil; in fact, it was planted at Chernobyl for that exact purpose after the 1986 nuclear disaster. Further, its proponents say hemp is an effective carbon sink

Jungmaven and hemp apparel 2.0

Over the years, one could still purchase apparel and other items made from hemp, but such products were made out of hemp sourced from countries like Canada and China. And, while we’re on the subject of apparel, much of the clothing speaks more to “The Age of Aquarius” than fashion. That’s where Jungmaven steps in, with a brilliance matched by the colors of its clothing lines.

These aren’t the loose-fitting hemp-based clothing you might be familiar with; nor are these ponchos sold by souvenir shops at cruise ship destinations. The wide range of clothing lines by Jungmaven are fitted and come in a wide range of patterns and color pops. The “Wild Eyes Baja” threads especially stand out: Just ask the D.J. Diplo.

Robert Jungmann, the founder of Jungmaven, first became intrigued with hemp in the early 1990s. He helped found the Hemp Industries Association almost 30 years ago — and that organization’s advocacy helped lead to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. All along, Jungmann believed hemp-based apparel could be fashion-forward while doing its part to help heal the planet.

Jungmaven currently employs 18 people and contracts out its manufacturing here in the U.S. The company still faces structural hurdles as it seeks to scale up. For one thing, the global textile sector supply chain is still centered around the knitting and manufacturing of cotton and synthetic fibers: Incorporating hemp-based fabrics requires the industry to adapt. Further, transformation within the U.S. agricultural system will take some time — it’s naïve to assume farmers will suddenly shift to hemp even four years after the passage of the landmark Farm Bill. For now, Jungmaven says it’s sourcing hemp from the Shanxi and Heilongjiang provinces in China until U.S. farmers can fill that gap.

In the meantime, Jungmaven keeps adding new looks: The latest collections can be viewed here.

Image credits via Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye