Interview by Lucy von Sturmer
Meet HoodLamb – The Amsterdam-Born Hemp Innovators
Fast fashion gets a bad rep (and rightly so!) from its focus on incessant consumption to its use of cheap labour and materials.
While awareness around these issues is growing, and many brands are taking new measures to address this, some, such as HoodLamb, which have fair ethics and sustainability at their core, are starting to get recognised.
HoodLamb began in the ‘90s in Amsterdam and was seeded by a love for Hemp (no pun intended). Over twenty years ago, HoodLamb’s founder Douglas Mignola moved to The Netherlands from California and set up a store dedicated to all things Hemp. “The jackets came later,” he says.
Yes, HoodLamb’s roots lie firmly in the Amsterdam many tourists dream about, but over the years the brand has reinvented itself and today it focuses on producing slick, sustainable, and incredibly warm jackets.
But before we focus on the jackets, let’s backtrack to the 90s when Douglas, now in his early 20s and far from home, began his business with an instinct “that Hemp was going to be big!”
“I could go on about the benefits of Hemp. There’s no need for pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, it requires half the amount of water than other agricultural crops, and it enriches, rather than depletes, the soil by shedding its leaves throughout the season.”
Douglas was right; Hemp was going to be big. And while he explains that over the years the brand has toyed with doing other products, the HoodLamb design team, headed by Annemarie Baurdoux, soon realised the material was most suited for jackets.
“It’s one of the strongest and most durable natural fibres available, and it’s sturdy, strong and thick.”
While vegans and environmentalists were quick to catch onto HoodLamb’s work, the brand has also gained popularity from unlikely celebrities such as Snoop Dogg (captured on MTV sporting the jacket while on tour in Germany) and TV celebrity Woody Harrelson.
Today, HoodLamb’s image is high end fashion, but its love for all things sustainable – and Hemp – has remained.
While many brands use nasty chemicals to ensure their jackets are waterproof, HoodLamb uses a water resistant coating made from natural cellulose found in the inner core of the hemp stalk. Further, the inside of each jacket features “fake fur” made from recycled plastic – not only great for the planet, but snuggly and warm.
Beyond making a sustainable product, Douglas believes in sustainable production and chooses to work with factories he trusts to provide safe conditions.
“We only work in the north of China where the air is cleaner and with factories who manage their wastewater well. I was so excited when I first saw a clean wastewater treatment plant” he laughs, “I remember showing it to customers.”
Anyone who works in the fashion industry knows that even an impressive water treatment programme is not exciting to customers, but this goes to show just how much care is given.
However he admits that when you’re small fish in a big pond, trying to do good, it can be difficult to remain competitive.
“We’re just happy there’s growing interest in sustainable fashion. And that stores such as Charlie + Mary are now exposing our brand to a new type of “conscious consumer.”
While Douglas admits there’s always room for improvement, for example they could choose to use no dye at all, he firmly believes wearability is also key to sustainability.
“We consider ourselves Hemp innovators and we want to challenge the traditional notion of “sack-looking” Hemp,” he says.
“Our goal is to not only make ethical, sustainable clothing, but clothing that gets worn everyday. We think it’s criminal to leave clothing lying in your wardrobe.”
Images: Blogger Justine wearing Hoodlamb