Ulrik, the founder of MÁ Hemp Wear, makes his collection’s core material hemp sound like a magical little plant. ‘Hemp really is the most sustainable fabric I know’, and even thought to be the fabric of the future.1 This bold statement made us curious. Can this ancient plant really be a game-changer of the fashion industry today? High time for an interview.
This is a seller on a mission we can really get behind. As one of the most environmentally-friendly materials in the world, MÁ Hemp Wear chose hemp as a solution to the many challenges of the fashion industry today. Naturally pest repellant and demanding little water, hemp fibres are not only anti-bacterial and thermo-regulating, but also extremely durable.
The MÁ style is urban, rather refined-looking than overstated and has high-quality workmanship. With clean shapes and functional, minimal designs that will last for years, MÁ presents a casual yet sophisticated style that also carries messages of sustainability, ethics and a long history.
But who are the people behind this brand? What’s their story? Why is hemp celebrated for its sustainable qualities? Which of our criteria do they meet? Enjoy this read and find out why we are loving MÁ’s story and collection.
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After treating us to a big smile and a Dutch “Gggoedemorgen!” at the start of our Zoom interview, we instantly know it’s going to be a lively chat. Today we’re talking to Danish MÁ Hemp Wear founder Ulrik Schiötz: friendly face, lots of energy and verrry passionate about that magical little plant called hemp.
“MÁ means hemp in Chinese, a tribute to the place where our materials are grown – hence our company name. We are here for everyone who loves hemp clothing and everybody seeking a unique and truly sustainable wardrobe. Hemp lies at the very core of our brand and we chose to launch a hemp clothing brand because it is the most fascinating, environmentally friendly and forward-looking material we have ever come across.”
“On a mission to find the most sustainable materials for our clothing brand, we were surprised by the millennia-old history of hemp and the huge role it played for humans almost everywhere on the planet. At several times in history, farmers have even been legally obligated to grow it in order to ensure the supply of this critical material for textiles, paper and food.
Industrial hemp – marijuana's sober cousin – has been cultivated for thousands of years and is used to create a diverse range of products: from clothing to rope, from insulation to paper. Hemp fabric is made from the long strands of fibre that make up the stalk of the plant and is somewhat similar to linen in texture. More on how it feels and its comfortable qualities in a bit.
But it was really the sustainable properties of hemp that made us fall in love with this material.
Hemp grows incredibly fast – along with bamboo, hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth4 – and dense. It outcompetes weeds (no pun intended 😉), doesn’t need harsh chemical herbicides and has an incredibly high yield. The plant naturally has compounds that insects and fungi don’t like, which means that no pesticides are necessary to grow the plant. This way, a lot of material can be produced without the use of chemicals.
Moreover, the hemp plant has a special, deep-growing type of root that allows the plant to draw water and nutrients from deeper soil layers. That means that it can grow in most regions without being watered or fertilized. The root mass of the hemp plant is so large that when harvested, the roots left in the soil will enrich it with nutrients. Up to 60% of the nutrients it takes from the soil can be returned this way!3
This means that growing hemp in a field for years won’t deplete the soil, but may actually make it more healthy and fertile.
It doesn’t end with the bad-ass sustainable properties. The fabrics and clothes made from hemp are feature-packed, too.”
“If you want to shop more sustainably, it’ll be easy to fall in love with the benefits of hemp. But we do like to think beyond just that aspect: clothes should not have any drawbacks in terms of quality and style, just because they are sustainable. That’s why our mission at MÁ is to make stylish yet timeless pieces that make hemp accessible to people who also care about style.
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Hemp fabrics are kind to the skin, even if your skin is sensitive. It reminds of linen in touch and feel, is very breathable and thus comfortable to wear. On top of that, it is naturally antibacterial, which means hemp clothes will stay fresh for longer between washes. Being the strongest natural fibre, it also lasts for a long time and “breaks in” beautifully becoming more lush with wear and washing.”
“All these wearing properties we’ve been discussing so far, really give the possibility to make very special clothing items. To me this material is just fascinating.”
“I was born in the 80s and I think that many people of my generation and younger have a much better understanding of a previously overlooked reality: the true cost of our consumption-driven economic activity. This true cost takes into account all the natural and social impacts of – for example – clothing production.”
“It was through my life experience and observing the world that I came to the conclusion that it is imperative to take into account environmental damage and human harm when producing.”
Sustainable use of raw materials
“We use hemp for all its sustainable properties: no chemicals, preservation of soils, no requirement for irrigation, high-yield (this frees up farmland for e.g. food).”
“The fabrics are from Chinese manufacturer Hemp Fortex who have worked with the Fair Wear Foundation from 2010 until 2017 and have their own foundation supporting local social initiatives. Our clothes are sewn in Portugal at family-run and sustainability-minded manufacturer Soeiro and the nearby dye house Quinta & Santos, that we both visit multiple times a year.”
Reducing plastic pollution
“Our clothes are designed without synthetic fibres. Plastic does never decompose in nature and personally, I think it is a really bad idea to use synthetic fibres in clothes. We’ve learned though that at this point there is one exception where we couldn’t find a sufficient alternative, which are the sewing threads. But also here we strive to find a better alternative.”
More sustainable packaging
“Furthermore we package our clothing items in paper and use paper adhesive tape for our shipping cartons. No plastics here.”
“We create timeless pieces: our clean shapes and functional, minimal designs will last for years.”
1-star vegan company
“We don’t advertise our clothing to be vegan, but they are indeed made without animal products.”
“Using hemp fabrics, sustainability is really on our side. I truly don’t know any other material as sustainable as hemp.
But our hemp does come from China and is transported very far by container. Even though container transport has the lowest emissions of all types of transportation, we would still improve our footprint by sourcing our fabrics locally.
Not local... yet
"Reducing carbon emissions is our main area of improvement. So far we source most of our fabrics from China which results in long transportation routes. We are constantly looking for European alternatives, but haven’t found any satisfactory ones yet."
Reducing carbon emissions is our main area of improvement. So far we source most of our fabrics from China which results in long transportation routes. We are constantly looking for European alternatives, but haven’t found any satisfactory ones yet.
However, taking into account that we are changing the huge and highly polluting fashion industry, I feel we are working on much larger improvements in sustainability.
On a different note, we’d like to be more size-inclusive in the future. Offering a broad range of sizes is unfortunately quite difficult, unless you produce larger quantities of clothes. As a small brand, this proves to be a challenge. Still, we are very aware that we need to offer more different sizes in the nearest possible future.”
“We are involved in all steps of the production. We design the pieces ourselves, purchase the fabrics and have them sewed and dyed. So far we have worked with the following partners:
A big benefit of being located in Portugal is that it is very close, so we were able to visit the production four times in the 1,5 year that we have been on the market. Therefore we have been able to check the working conditions with our own eyes.”
“The biggest challenge as a brand is getting awareness for our brand and getting our message across. There are many cool – established and young – sustainable brands and many who tell their story very well. From the beginning we however have been mostly product-focused.
Most truly sustainable brands are small and therefore have more limited resources to make and sell their clothes. Having a beautiful website, a large choice of products or endorsements by celebrities, for instance, is much easier to achieve for large companies. With smaller brands, people sometimes have to accept that the experience can be a little rougher around the edges, which can actually feel nice – because this makes the brand often seem more personal and human.
Last but not least: I’m hoping that people realise why sustainable products in most cases are unfortunately still more expensive. Or perhaps they really should question how sustainable cheaper products that say they are sustainable, really are. Especially now that ‘sustainability’ has become such a buzzword.”
“It is true that hemp clothing is rather expensive at the moment. Hopefully, once hemp gains more traction in mainstream markets again, fabric prices will be lower so it’s not only an attractive material, but also accessible to everyone.
But even looking at it today, when you wear hemp clothing, they feel very special to wear and touch. They last for a very long time, stay fresh for long and keep a good temperature in both cold and warm weather. So the bottom line is that hemp makes very high-quality fabric.
Add to that the incredible sustainable features, we believe, more than justify the price and are a great investment in your wardrobe.”
“You’re really making me choose? I would have to say our new shorts Ancho (SS21) and Short Sleeve Shirt Habanero. Both are made from 100% hemp and embody perfectly what MÁ is: the stylish reincarnation of the most fascinating textile.
But I also have to add our pants Flacko from our first collection, they are a true love story. I had the idea for a pair of pants in a jogger shape but made from a heavy woven fabric with a special seam on the inside of the leg. It was received very well, has already gained outspoken fans and we are re-issuing it in new colours this fall. So stay tuned!”
“Wear hemp, you and mother nature will love it. And if you’ve skipped this bit: definitely circle back to what I’ve learned from the hemp spirit. I think it’s amazing.”
1. 'When It Comes to Sustainability, Hemp Is The Fabric of Fashion's Future.' J, Boatman-Harrell. 2019
2. 'Hemp: One of the Best Natural Fibers on the Planet.' J. A, Guay. 2015
3. 'ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF HEMP.' Ecological Agriculture Projects. 1996
4. 'Hemp: American History Revisited: The Plant with a Divided History.' R, Deitch. 2003