The Chicken and Egg Problem of Hemp Clothing

I went clothes shopping today. Specifically, I was looking for a couple of pullovers that I wouldn’t have to iron and could wear under a jacket to a business meeting. I made a foray into a bunch of shops in Victoria (admittedly, a relatively small trading area). My conclusions:

  • The eighties are back with a flaming (in every sense of the word) sword of vengeance. Stripes! Primary colours! Sleeves rolled to the elbow! Big buttons! Skinny jeans! And that’s just the men. It’s all awful.
  • Like magazine racks, men’s wear departments are suffering increasing incursions by departments for women. This is on top of the usual ghettoization of men’s wear (“Oh, yeah, we’ve got some men’s shirts in the basement, down that hatch in the floor, behind some cardboard boxes. Watch out for rats.”) Clearly my gender is not spending enough on clothes.
  • Thankfully, my underwear of choice–pride of Truro, Nova Scotia–remains the same.
  • I would kill and pay a premium for a store that could streamline my clothes shopping experience.

Tunics and Pajamas

I specifically visited two hemp and organic fashion stores in Victoria: Hemp & Company and Fiber Options. I didn’t find any of the pullovers I was looking for, but I did get a couple of casual shirts at the latter store.

Both were combinations of bamboo and organic cotton. One was from HTnaturals, and unfortunately made in China. The other was a cool t-shirt (er, unflattering product shot) from Salts Organic Clothing (they also have a blog). It’s made in Canada.

In both stores, I did didn’t find any clothes that I would wear that would qualify as (an awful term, but bear with me) ‘business-casual’. All of the hemp products looked like pajamas, or hung off me like tunics. They weren’t even a little cool.

This has consistently been my experience at stores that sell clothes made of hemp. I’ve begun to wonder if there’s a chicken and egg problem with these stores and their suppliers:

  • The average person won’t buy the current offerings in hemp clothing AND
  • The people who buy hemp clothes aren’t interested in what the average person might buy.

This is all speculation, and I’ve only taken a very small sampling thus far. Still, I wish I could find a store that offered great clothes made of organic fabrics that ranged from pajamas to business suits. I know Vancouver has more to offer–maybe I’ll look around the next time I’m in town.


  1. I think you meant “In both stores, I *didn’t* find any clothes that I would wear…”

    And I think you nailed the problem exactly. The problem is so acute that I’ve previously wondered whether hemp could actually be made into non-lumpy, stylish clothes at all, but I suspect it can.

    Here’s a relevant article on “green” business suits. Perhaps there are local custom tailors who have sources for nicer organic and hemp fabrics too.

  2. Indeed, that’s corrected. Some days I take time to proofread. Other days, not so much.

  3. Completed agreed. Though there was a store in Nelson (I can’t remember if it was Hemp and Company or Still Eagle, though I think it’s the former), which had very hip and more fitted yuppie-ish clothes.

    With regards to the Stanfields. I encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone. There’s nothing like a good pair of underwear. CK, and I’m not a label whore, makes damn good underwear.

    I’m seeing the mens sections of stores get smaller and smaller and the womens sections every encroaching on the mens. H&M, Zara, the Bay, RW&Co. and Tristan are about the only stores I can find anything these days. Le Chateau is rolling out mens boutiques and separating their mens stores from the women’s. The result is a brutally small store (in comparison with the women) that’s cramped with too many people and products and a bad customer experience over all.

  4. Wader: You know, I’ve tried CK, and in the sports boxer category, there’s not much to separate them and Stanfields. The former may last a little longer, but Stanfields compensates by being, like, 60% of the price.

  5. I noticed that phenomenon today while shopping at Metrotown (*shudder*). It actually makes me confused sometimes because it can be difficult to figure out where the ladies’ ends and the mens’ begins… and given that the girl side was 2/3 of the store, wandering to the “other half” was a bit strange. On the store indices, “ladies wear” is the first category and probably bigger than the mens’.

    At EPIC there was some really stylish but completely unaffordable organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo clothing. Sorry I don’t remember any names!

  6. Hi Darren,
    Thanks for buying one of my t-shirts. I have a shop out in Sooke that sells alot of the eco lines as well, we try to carry different stuff out here than the Victoria stores sell. I am doing up a collared shirt for fall that might be more of what you are looking for. I am trying to expand the men’s line to include some dressier pieces.

    Bono has a eco-line that has some stylish mens pieces, I can’t remember what its called…

    As for the chicken and the egg. I design for the casual islander, a few of my pieces for women can be dressed up for work though. I have long said that the problem in eco fashion was that the original designers got into it for the eco and not for the fashion but thats changing big time, especially in the last year or so.

    There is a lot available for women now, is a great resource of local designers working in sustainable mediums. Anyways, thanks again for your support and please look forward to my seasons to come…Fall 08 has many dressier stylish pieces.

    Salts Organic Clothing

  7. As owner of a hemp clothing company and manufacturer, I sympathize with your problem. However, one must acknowledge that part of the problem lies in the ridiculous styles people wear in the business world. Hemp is most similar to linen. There are plenty of gorgeous linen suits out there, but very seldom are they worn in the business world. Hemp fabric lends itself to the more casual. I have been in business for 12 years mostly due to the fact that I produce and sell the styles that actually sell. It may be limiting our clientele a bit, but you essentially have to maximize your production of space. The comment about hemp clothes being lumpy and non-stylish is inane. In my opinion smooth polyester clothing looks horrible. Armani, Calvin Klein, and other top designers love hemp and have made several garments. However, many business types like the bloggers here are a bit slow to take to the style. Your opinions on clothes are merely that…opinions. If your priority is supporting hemp..perhaps its worth a second look.

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