My blog is dedicated to the exploration of industrial hemp in America including the rich history of all forms of cannabis, the evolving law and politics of hemp and marijuana, the many products made from cannabis and the capacity, real or imagined, of hemp to re-industrialize rural America and revitalize the American family farm.
In yogic traditions, the word “Prana” is a Sanskrit word meaning, “life force.” At least that was the case before 1992, when the word also came to mean “an environmentally-responsible company from Carlsbad, California making beautiful, sustainably-created active wear.” Since its inception, prAna has operated by principles that not only honor the earth, but also the farmers and processors of the fibers who make the clothing that is worn by active and adventurous people the world over. We caught up with prAna to talk to them about one aspect of the company’s own life force: their beautiful, functional and sustainable hemp clothing line.
We spoke with a few of the company’s leading thinkers, who collectively contributed to answering a series of questions we’ve been dying to ask them. Our conversation with prAna was motivated by curiosity around their new model of sustainable business. Their placement with us, a reflection of their brand values. Living their passion, fueling ours.
FtC: Sustainability has been one of prAna’s core values as a company since its humble beginnings starting out of a garage in 1992, but prAna didn’t start out with hemp clothing as part of its collection. How has sustainability played a role in prAna’s products and business ethics from the start?
prAna: Sustainability is one of our core values. It touches everything we do both from a production standpoint to the way we live our lives in and out of the office. In the beginning, clothing was cut and sewed in a garage and shipped to customers in surplus fruit boxes gathered from a local grocery store. For hangtags, we ground up old newspapers, added essential oils and cut out the handmade paper with a pizza cutter. Our first employee slept on a hinged bed that turned into a shipping table by day. A lot has changed, but our “reuse – recycle” ethos still remains strong.
FtC: What was the primary factor for deciding to pursue a premium hemp clothing apparel line?
prAna: Unlike many other companies in apparel, sustainability doesn’t just live in one department at prAna. It is a pervasive goal that every one of us strives for every day in every decision we make. With that mentality and the amazing sustainable properties hemp brings, it was an easy decision for us to make.
FtC: Hemp is considered a “miracle fiber,” as the clothing produced with hemp is lightweight yet 3x the strength of cotton, plus it’s weather resistant. But for prAna: Why hemp? What would you say are some of the top benefits people can expect from purchasing and wearing hemp clothing over common alternatives such as cotton and polyester?
Anti-Microbial Properties: hemp fabric is resistant to bacteria, which means you’ll be cleaner after wearing hemp than another fabric.
Hemp does not need pesticides or herbicides to grow, making it one of the most sustainable natural fibers we can use in clothing.
Water usage is significantly lower than with crops like cotton.
Other performance properties: hemp is thermos-conductive, meaning it’s naturally cool to the touch; extremely breathable; and naturally UV resistant.
FtC: Some say you won’t really understand the benefits that are provided by the fabric unless you’ve owned hemp clothing. Why do you feel it might be perceived as ‘unbelievable’ until tried and tested?
prAna: The comfort, breathability, and anti-microbial properties you get from hemp clothing are unlike any other natural fiber you’ve ever worn before. The performance features you get from hemp become even more evident when you realize that they are inherent to the fiber, whereas most Natural and synthetic fibers have to add chemical finishes just to achieve these attributes.
FtC: prAna has perhaps been best known for amazing yoga apparel and gear, but your hemp collection includes more than this right?
prAna: Yes, hemp extends across multiple categories for us including lifestyle tops, bottoms, dresses, fitness tops, shorts, and accessories. Some of our favorites are the Juniper Pant and the Liana Sweater for women as well as the Sutra Short and Vaha Pant for the guys.
FtC: As the leading producer of hemp clothing in the United States, what has been your total impact – locally and globally?
prAna: By using hemp, we and other brands are greatly reducing the amount of harmful chemicals being used in the apparel industry. Increasing the amount of sustainable materials we use year after year ensures that the people who grow and work these fibers as well as the people living in their communities are not being exposed to harmful chemicals. We are excited to introduce more and more people to hemp as an apparel and we hope that this increase in awareness leads to many more domestic & international opportunities that are not currently available to us.
FtC: Industrial use of hemp isn’t new by any means. It has been used to make a vast number of products from military uniforms to sail ropes and parachute webbing, and it is touted as one of the most useful and environmentally friendly materials found.However, some people still hesitate when they hear the word “hemp.” Has prAna encountered any bad rap with your hemp collection due to association with illicit drugs, or do you feel that people are really getting it by now?
prAna: There is definitely some historical confusion around hemp and cannabis overall. That said, it is our responsibility to help (re)educate our customers on the multifaceted benefits of this “wonder crop.” Once people see and feel our hemp garments, we often see an immediate change in their perceptions. For example, prAna was invited to Washington DC last year to be a part of the Hemp on the Hill event, showing members of Congress the variety of products that can be made from hemp. It was very cool to see everyone’s faces in amazement when they saw and felt our hemp products.
FtC: Industrially, hemp is classified as an Eco-textile. Many others exist and new ones are constantly being developed. Some are even quite strange, like fabric made from fermented wine, and biotechnology growing textiles like “ethical fur” from living cells. How do you feel about other types of eco-textiles, and why do you believe that hemp will stand the test of time?
prAna: If research, innovation, and passion for progress can transform the apparel industry to become more sustainable, then we are excited. Hemp is just such an easy and natural way to make sustainable textiles and hundreds of other products, it really should be a no-brainer to use it.
FtC: Ok, the list is extensive on the positive impact of hemp… Is there anything not to love about it?
prAna: Some people say that hemp is scratchy and compare it to a burlap sack; however, that rumor is far from true. When hemp is blended correctly and the fabric structure is done right, we achieve some super soft, vibrant, luxurious fabrics as an end result. All you have to do is look at our Spring Collection at prAna.com.