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A Sustainable Hempire


“Hemp seeds are safe to eat, nutritious, and do not have a psychoactive effect,” said Food Safety Minister, the Honourable Damien O’Connor, in a Beehive press release in November 2018, regarding changes made to the regulations controlling the production and sale of hemp seed food products.

 

 

This was no surprise to those who know the history and benefits of the plant that US President George Washington wanted “planted everywhere”. And good news to those on the cutting edge of an imminent revolution. One such revolutionary is Pharmacist Brendon McIntosh, Kaiwhakahaere of Plant Based NZ, the parent body of several brands with a growing inventory.

During post-graduate studies into nutritional and environmental medicines, Brendon was introduced to the benefits of hemp as a food source and the base of a multitude of products. After his studies concluded, he teamed up with Brad Lake, whose background is in rural banking. He’s seen firsthand the evolution and the limitations of the agriculture industry in New Zealand. He also recognises what the future will look like.

“Synthetic foods coming through, transition to plant-based diets, people moving away from high-animal-product diets; New Zealand needs to be prepared. We can’t pretend what we’ve been doing for the last hundred years is going to work for the next hundred years.”

Initially, Brendon and Brad sold hemp seed oil and protein powders at local markets. Under the banner of ‘The Brothers Green’, they are now available in New World supermarkets. A range of hemp seed-based skincare products is available nationwide in pharmacies, under the brand ‘Kōaka’, which loosely translates into ‘hemp’ in Te Reo Māori.

 

Hemp fibre has been widely used for a variety of products for thousands of years – paper, jewellery, rope and sails in the age of sailing ships, animal bedding, building materials, and latterly in the production of cars, biofuels, purification systems, and, of course, clothing.

The addition of an apparel line was a natural progression for company. Enter Sustainable Fashion Designer Eden Sloss. “Hemp is the most sustainable crop. It’s the strongest natural fibre we can grow for textiles,” she says.

The ‘Original Canvas’ brand is Eden’s baby. Short and long sleeve tees and hoodies so far, expansion is guaranteed. She’s been to China (the largest producer of hemp fabrics) recently, sourcing ethically grown and produced materials; a catalogue is in production and more retail outlets are buying into the ethos that sustainable is the way of the future.

 

“We’re trying to make it more accessible,” she says, “because there is demand and it’s growing”. Check out @originalcanvas_nz on Instagram.

Winning the Foodstarter Award, a competition to find New Zealand’s most innovative food product, driven primarily by Foodstuffs South Island and The Ministry of Awesome, has allowed The Brothers Green to take the business to the next level. The industry expertise and promotion from the award will see the launch of the Hempy Bar, a healthy hemp-based snack bar for kids. Watch New World supermarkets for that in September.

Brendon, Eden, Brad and the team are on the cusp of a hemp-based revolution and it’s about to explode. “We’re building a sustainable hempire,” Eden says.

 


 

The heart of sustainability


We’ve been experiencing a shift in how we approach fashion globally, as we eschew fast fashion and seek ethics and sustainability in our attire. Metropol catches up with one of the country’s leaders in this space – Kowtow’s Gosia Piatek.

 

 

Your story of fleeing Poland at the reach of the Soviet Union in 1987 is an incredibly inspiring one. I understand your family had just $200 to their name?
My family left Poland as political asylum refugees in 1985 – I was five years old. During this time Poland was a locked boarder communist nation. It was hard for us to leave and we left everything behind including our friends and family. My parents followed their noses to a refugee camp along the Italian coast, where we stayed for two years whilst we waited to get accepted by New Zealand. Back in the 1980s Europe didn’t have the same influx of refugees as it does now, so we were welcomed with open arms and looked after incredibly well. We were given a house on the beach, I attended school and learnt Italian and have very fond memories of my time there. In 1987 we were granted entry into New Zealand.


What is your design philosophy?
We have an exciting design philosophy as everything we create has to meet our incredibly stringent criteria for sustainability and ethics. For many years, we only worked with fair trade certified organic cotton, and recently we have started to add other fabrics, like tencel made from eucalyptus trees, ZQ certified New Zealand merino wool and swimwear made from recycled fishing nets. Since I have started to live half my year in London it’s really opened me up to meeting new people and learning about new technologies that are on the market. As far as the actual creative design goes, we start with a mood board and think about the creative direction for the season, we design 18 months in advance as we source all our yarn from the farm level (for traceability), so we can’t jump on trends and create what we think is endemic to Kowtow and what we love. In general, reoccurring themes for us are volume, colour, patterns and minimalism.


Why do you think the world has connected so strongly with Kowtow and what you do?
When I first started Kowtow 13 years ago, the story of ethics and sustainability in fashion wasn’t one many people wanted to hear. However, fast forward to 2019 and we are now living in a very different landscape. Especially after the Rana Plaza disaster which highlighted the affects first world hunger for fashion has on third world labour, people are now wanting to spend their money with brands that they can trust have an ethical and sustainable supply chain and we are one of them. It’s nice to know that we are also very legitimate too; Kowtow was built on very staunch values from day one and it’s only become clearer 13 years on as we take on new information, every product we produce, 100 percent of what we do is made responsibly.


 

Eco-style

Eco-style


With sustainability fast becoming an integral part of almost every industry – cars, architecture and even technology – it’s no wonder eco-conscious fashion is gaining traction both here and abroad.

 

Eco-style

 

Sustainable fashion doesn’t have to mean drab-coloured t-shirts or scratchy plimsoles seemingly made from a potato sack – Meghan Markle herself has thrown the spotlight on brands with minimal environmental impact during her first royal tour of Australasia.

Paving the way for a 2019 trend, the Duchess of Sussex was photographed wearing multiple sustainable labels – among them, Outland Denim, known for their organic cotton jeans crafted by seamstresses paid the living wage, Rothy black flats, made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles, and Stella McCartney, who has long been committed to sustainable practices and the use of vegan materials. Lesser known, local brands like Maggie Marilyn also made an appearance and the effect on these smaller fashion labels has been significant to say the least.

It’s not news that a growing number of celebrities are turning away from fast fashion and towards ethical attire – boosting eco-friendly fashion has been on the agenda for celebs from Emma Watson through to Miley Cyrus for years now.

A range of vibrant styles will undoubtedly be seen on the runways this year – but who says you can’t be stylish and sustainable at the same time? Sustainable fashion is a niche that has been growing exponentially around the world and, while it can be pricey, the extra dollar more often than not means extraordinary quality – and you can strut your stuff proudly knowing your fabulous outfit didn’t cost the planet.