Hemp Clothing has been getting a lot of attention from the fashion industry in recent days. With the world focused on sustainability, conscious consumption, and eco-friendly alternatives, it’s no surprise that people are taking an interest in Hemp.
Contrary to the beliefs of some, Hemp fabric is highly versatile in use. It’s not just daggy, rough, hippy clothing. And as people have started taking Hemp Clothing on board as an option, we’ve seen some very talented designers begin to work with it.
Leah Kelly By Design has been Making Hemp Clothing for around 20 years now and has made countless pieces for men & women, from weddings to formals.
This week we had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her Hemp fabric journey!
The first drawcard for using Hemp was its natural feel and look. I had already conducted a lot of research into the uses of Hemp. I was always impressed by the versatility this plant had to offer & yet astounded by the lack of support the industry was receiving on every level, not just the textile side.
Living completely off-grid myself, I am into a sustainable way of life. I could seriously see how the Industrial Hemp Industry of Australia could be a very viable resource for our country.
I was taught to hand embroider by my grandmother as a child. I love to hand bead using only crystals or shells etc. Each gown is an heirloom that can be passed down through generations.
I was tired of using cheap nasty fabrics which fell apart after applying such detail. Hemp, being the most durable of all materials, was my obvious choice.
I also believe, we as consumers, have gone beyond the idea of owning minimal clothing, hence the disposable society that has created a world with tons of worn clothes in mass landfills all over the world.
Hemp clothing breathes in hot or cool climates and withstands the test of time, unlike other fibres grown and used widely & then discarded as it decays only months after purchase.
I started using upcycled fabric from the op shop as I didn’t have the funds to purchase new materials.
If you're curious about why more designers are choosing Hemp, you can learn about the advantages of Hemp over cotton here.
Occasionally I would find hemp in op shops but not often. I think most people who purchased any hemp clothing back in the day hung onto them !!
I have been working with Hemp clothing now for almost 20 years, & it certainly has been an exciting journey considering the lack of knowledge surrounding potential clientele here in Australia.
I designed and made a formal blouse for American Actress/Conservationist Daryl Hannah whilst in Australia for the Australasian Permaculture conference, which she wore to attend the Gala Dinner night for her presentation speech.
I also designed and made a gown for UK socialite Eliza Pearson (heiress to Penguin Book). I showcased 6 of my organic dresses twice for Eco Fashion Week Australia 2018 (Port Douglas QLD) & Fremantle (WA).
More recently, I was invited to showcase at Paris Fashion Week. However, due to our recent times of change, my showcase of another six gowns has just arrived at Oxford Fashion Studio, London, to showcase on the runway of London Fashion Week 2021 in September.
All my gowns are made from natural fibres—the latest, using pineapple fibre and banana bark.
However, the majority are hemp or blends of hemp. The 3-dimensional outcome of embroidering with the thread is fantastic.
I love all blends. However, most of my gowns are handmade using the Hemp/Silk blend. One of my favourite pieces I have just sent to London is a blend of Hemp & Wild Nettle, which is just amazing on a couture level for fitted coats.
I also have a line of lingerie which my favourite was always the blend of Hemp & Bamboo.
I have just completed a corset made from Hemp/Silk, which I have boned and edged using 100% banana bark.
I would love to experiment with the blend of Hemp/Banana Bark, and I believe it could be a similar textile to Hemp/Wild Nettle & a possible production line here in Australia.
High-end gowns certainly require a lot more due care in construction than your average sewing technique. I indeed find Hemp one of the most pleasurable textiles to work with because it is a stable fabric, both to hand embroider and sew with.
I have lost count as to how many couture Hemp Gowns I have made over the last 20 odd years, a lot! From weddings to formals, both male and Female.
But I believe my favourite piece of Hemp clothing is in London now for the catwalk. That’s my Hemp/Wild Nettle corset coat lined with HempSilk, buttoned up with Smokey Quartz.
What more can we say other than WOW - What a career so far! Leah truly is a huge inspiration, primary contributor, and downright innovator in the Hemp clothing and fashion space. She’s almost been handmaking her pieces as far back as we’ve owned this business.
Twenty years is no joke! We’ve got no doubt she’s clocked her 10,000 hours for expertise in this time. When it comes to high-end Hemp clothing, she very well may be one of the most experienced designers in the world - and it shows.
You might not be able to smoke it, but we could bet that wearing one of her pieces would induce a more extraordinary euphoria than even the most potent strain you could think of. Just the way we like it!
We’d love to extend a big thanks to Leah for taking the time out of her busy schedule to have a chat with us about her career and experiences working with our favourite material and making Hemp clothing.
Until next week, everyone!