Meet Brittany, Isabella and Anna, the clever and conscious minds behind Byron Bay label, The Hemp Temple. One of the few clothing brands around exclusively using hemp, they design timeless basics for really living in and intended to last beyond drifting trends. The way they operate their business contributes to the growing movement towards a circular economy in which waste, resources, emissions and energy leakage are reduced. As one of the biggest strains on the environment, the fashion industry is in need of a real shift, along with our individual relationships towards buying clothes. Standing as a potential hero that can undo some damage, hemp might offer an all-encompassing solution.
I learned so many amazing facts about hemp during our chat, was inspired by their commitment to stay authentic in business and also had a good giggle hearing about a the Moroccan romance that apparently went AWOL. Aspiring eco-preneurs will get a lot out of this conversation, as we dive into The Hemp Temple’s undefined early beginnings and follow the adventures that led them to flourish as they are now.
All your designs are made exclusively using hemp, can you share a little bit about why?
Isabella: Hemp wasn’t out primary fibre when we set everything up. We were mainly using cotton because hemp wasn’t available and we didn’t know much about it. When we came back from setting up our maker and travelling, we started to learn more about the fashion industry and we watched the true cost and learned about how to be sustainable in an unsustainable industry, and the only avenue was really hemp. So we were pestering out maker saying “please find hemp, please find hemp” and he sent us this little sample of hemp. From there we changed all of our designs into hemp and learned more as we went on. If you want to compare it to cotton, because cotton is the primary fibre that the industry uses, it uses less than half of the amount of water that cotton.
Brittany: If any water in some cases.
Isabella: Cotton uses heaps of pesticides because it attracts all the bugs, so pretty much any cotton you’re buying unless you’re buying organic cotton is covered in chemicals, which absorbs directly into your skin. People don’t know how bad it is to wear everything you wear, unless it’s from a sustainable place. Hemp’s really good because you don’t need fungicides, pesticides, herbicides to grow it, and it’s pretty much naturally organic (unless you get a non-organic one), but it grows organic naturally.
So this plant has the potential to revolutionise the way we eat, where we live, the air that we breathe — it’s not just clothing
Do you guys’ exclusively wear hemp now?
Isabella: Pretty much.
Brittany: It’s like the organic food of the clothing industry. Hemp also pulls pollution out of the soils and the air. So where there’s been nuclear spillage, they’ll plant hemp to extract it from the atmosphere and the soils. So regarding the pollution on our planet, the more hemp you plant, the more it’s going to actually bring the whole ecosystem back into balance. Hemp’s also used for food and plastic, it’s used for absolutely everything, but it was illegal in the 1800’s in America to not grow hemp. So this plant has the potential to revolutionise the way we eat, where we live, the air that we breathe — it’s not just clothing, if you push this hemp revolution, it’s really going to bring down industries of all these other people, it’s quite a powerful thing.
Anna: The more we learn the more we’re mind-blown.
Isabella: And you can create a kind of biofuel and way more paper than trees can produce, so it can potentially positively affect the deforestation that’s happening.
Britt: In one acre of hemp paper you can save 4 billion trees. That’s over a ten year process, but it’s just crazy. It grows 6 feet in three weeks.
So it’s like the bamboo of the fashion industry?
Brittany: Of every industry.
Isabella: Of every industry really. Like plastic when you think about how bad plastic is, hemp plastic can be biodegradable and take over pretty much but it’s like this blooming industry that hasn’t taken off.
Anna: it’s because there was a stigma around it with cannabis and it was illegal for so long.
Brittany: It’s like the antidote of pollution.
And you mentioned the fibres resonate?
Anna: It has the same vibration as our skin. So you know with some clothing you find that it’s static. For example, if it’s polyester or something, it doesn’t really work with your skin — but hemp, because it’s the same electromagnetic field as our skin it feels so good to wear.
I was curious why you guys did the rebrand because you guys were Friday Hut Road before, so what led to that?
Brittany: So Friday Hut Road started as the three of us getting together and wanting to change the world. We’d watched documentaries and we were like “oh my god we need to do something with our lives.” So we travelled around the world looking for pieces of vintage clothing and vintage jewellery and selling them online and then it just slowly evolved into this over a period of three years. So Friday Hut Road never really knew what it was, it was just the three of us wanting change. And finally we stumbled across the maker, with these beautiful basics and then hemp and we were like “well this is what we are, our intention was to save the world and this is how we’re going to do it.” So we were like “let’s just rebirth as The Hemp Temple so we know what we are, the world knows what we are, and we can really exert our energy on this path in the fashion industry that’s the second biggest polluter in the world.” We all wanted to be artists and writers and change the world that way, but we were like “this is the way we’re actually going to do it.”
It’s interesting that the concept came first and the product came second. You’re a writer Isabella, and I’ve seen that you guys are all pretty creative. Back when you were still Friday Hut Road you seemed to be more broad in discipline. What was Friday Hut Road back then?
It started as a blog with this innate feeling of not agreeing with the world and then it kind of evolved into.
Anna: It was travelling and looking for vintage pieces but then clothing kind of came into it because we were like “we have this idea of being different and so we want to be able to dress people and have them feel it too, so it was like the ‘clothing of the revolutionaries’ is what we decided to start it as, but that was before we even knew about hemp and now we’re like “it actually is the clothing of the revolutionaries.” So we kind of evolved into it. But we were also doing crystals and oracle cards and this expansive thing that we were a bit confused about for a time there.
That element still seems to be a part of your brand. You’re selling oracle cards here [at the shop], so how does that all tie into the brand?
We all studied Reiki with our Reiki master and really explored that avenue of life and then realised that we needed to get grounded in what we were doing, so we kind of put that to the side and focused on the business. and then the spiritual side of things just starts to come innately. It’s not like a forced preaching kind of movement, it’s just more of a natural — it’s like okay “what part of this world is naturally our essence, and what’s business” — so yeah it’s still here to fill the shelves but our main focus is the clothes.
Isabella: It’s like when we figured out how powerful hemp is, we really wanted to make it accessible to as many people we can. So that’s really a process of destigmatising hemp as not being associated with cannabis. We also want to destigmatise our philosophy of connectedness and being a part of nature to become really accessible. On the other hand, for the common person who doesn’t know about that can come in and feel comfortable knowing that what they’re wearing is still part of that aspect of what the business is, but they don’t have to know.
Brittany: Yeah, like we’re not hippy’s, and hippy’s don’t just wear hemp, it’s for every single person in the world to feel good. I mentioned that it’s kind of sacred responsibility. Like the sacredness and the responsibility came together and birthed the hemp temple.
I like that, because I think it’s grounded to be like “we just want to be as accessible as possible” and not really about preaching anything, you just are that, that’s who you are — and that’s filtered through a little bit in what you do. You guys also talked about travel and how that revolutionised everything for you. Is there anything that you wanted to mention about your journey and maybe what that did for your brand?
Isabella: After starting off with the blog, we decided “let’s do a business.” I was living overseas and the girls went to Bali and made a range of overalls and that was our first product. We were selling just four different styles of overalls and trying to get them out there, but also not having a firm foundation of what we were yet, but they were still really amazing and we were really excited. Then we met up on our travels and had the intention to find amazing vintage pieces and authentic stories behind products, but because we were also transforming and going through so much at the same time, it was always a thought that rather than a physical manifestation and finding a brand it was more like this energy of what is this business going to be and that was simultaneously transforming as we were transforming. We ended up in Morocco, and almost started a factory there, but through a series of messages and mishaps…
I love that, messages and mishaps…
Brittany: … I had a Moroccan lover that went totally AWOL and we had to escape Morocco and leave fabrics and samples behind and get a flight to India and get out of there really quick before it went really bad.
Anna: And India kind of cemented the whole business thing. We met this man in India, he’s a tailor and he makes beautiful men’s clothing. He said to us that he wasn’t working with anyone else, he just had this little shop in India and one other business in Italy and he said “if you girls run, I’ll run with you” and that was so beautiful and we were like “okay this is it,” so India was like the cement. When we asked him for hemp, we weren’t able to travel yet because we were doing all of our business here (in Byron) and he found it, but it was Nepalese, so that was the driving force to go to Nepal and go to the roots.
For what reason is Nepal the roots of hemp?
Anna: That’s where it grows abundantly and they’re using it to make the fabric. We can’t do it in Australia yet, just because it’s been illegal for so long that they got rid of all the technology to turn it into fabric.
Brittany: You can’t produce hemp fabric here in Australia yet.
At one point you mentioned it was illegal not to grow hemp, but now it’s been illegal to grow hemp. Do you know why?
Brittany: The cotton industry. There’s a lot of politics behind it. The big dogs in the cotton industry paid for campaigns and advertising to make it illegal and then you had Egyptian cotton and they wanted to be exclusively cotton. So there’s a lot of politics behind it because the power of it will just explode and all those big companies will be affected.
What’s been going on business wise, have you had a lot of interest since you’ve done the rebrand. I think you mentioned since you clarified your brand that things have upped a level.
Isabella: Yeah, there’s a lot that comes when you simplify things. Since we moved here (to Byron) really, it’s just kind of kicked off. I think because our brand was originally called Friday Hut Road, we moved back to Friday Hut Road and opened a place…
Friday Hut Road is in Sydney?
Isabella: Friday Hut Road is here [in Byron Bay].
Brittany: So my auntie and uncle live on Friday Hut Road. So I started the blog when I was 19 and studying creative writing out at Lismore at the university there. That’s where it was named and came to fruition. We ended up moving back here and living on their property again — all of us. So it was really crazy. People see the sign and come in just to see it, because Friday Hut Road is such a long road and so well known in the area that you just get people coming in that live on it which has been epic.”
So that’s why the signs still up?
Brittany: Yeah, but I think we’re going to close the shop this month and re open when we get back from Nepal.
Isabella: Or just go online.
Anna: and maybe start wholesaling because we haven’t been able to put ourselves in shops because we haven’t had the supply. But we’re hoping that after Nepal we’ll be able to expand and work with other shops and stuff like that.
Isabella: Cos this is primarily and office space really and it just kind of happened to be a shop because Britt said “we’re opening a shop”
Brittany: on Instagram.
Isabella: most of our sales are online anyway.
I think for the sustainable vision, the simpler it is, the more accessible it is to more people. What we want we want to do as part of the vision is get hemp out there to as many people as we can and so try and make things that can be worn to all different sizes.
How did you actually end up here in Byron, what made you decide to move from Sydney?
Brittany: The lifestyle up here. The food, seriously.
Isabella: We came on a holiday here and we were sitting at Santos Organics looking at posters on the wall that were saying “do this class and do that class,” and we were just like “I don’t understand why we don’t’ live here,” it’s just so who we are compared to where we were living. So we came home and sat on the kitchen floor and were like, “let’s move.”
Brittany: It was also that, we were doing markets at the time and a market in Sydney can be between 100 and 180 dollars and we asked how much the markets stalls are in Byron and they were like “$35” and I was like “We’re moving!”
A market friendly place then
Anna: Yeah the community runs on the markets, there are so many markets that just bring people together and so it’s really nice
I want to talk about your designs, I find your clothes pretty minimal and a little bit rustic and I was wondering what your thought process was behind the range.
Isabella: Well because we collaborate on the designs together, I’d say that maybe Anna’s got more of the beauty side of it and I’d like it to be as accessible as possible, because I think for the sustainable vision, the simpler it is, the more accessible it is to more people. What we want we want to do as part of the vision is get hemp out there to as many people as we can and so try and make things that can be worn to all different sizes, like a free sized top and a free sized skirt for women and basic colours so a lot of people can have access to them. That was our base, but now we’re exploring different styles and colours.
Anna: It’s the accessibility again. We want everybody to be able to wear hemp.
Brittany: And responding to the need. We saw straight away what people wanted. It was the wraps and the high waisted tops that you can wear with different things. Really applying our styles to a more voluptuous female body and people are like “yes, you design for women” you know, not little girls with no hips — it’s really bringing back that beauty of the woman and also we really want to push the men. Men love our shirts. One of our best sellers is the men’s ‘Ravi shirt.’ It’s like the middle road, you don’t have to look like a hippy to wear hemp.
Anna: It’s interesting because before we started our own brand, my inspiration has definitely been brands like mambo that have a real edge and amazing prints and stuff like that and so to go totally the opposite of that is interesting. But it’s just the knowledge of the industry and I don’t want to create something that people will get over. We want it to be in their cupboard for years, so that it’s not just thrown out and making them want to buy new things all the time — it’s something you can wear on and on and love it.
Are there lots of people already doing basics in hemp?
Isabella: Not at the moment.
Anna: There’s a lot of people doing basics, but not in hemp.
Isabella: I feel like this year everything hemp will start kicking off, I think it’s starting to catch.
Brittany: It’s like a little bit of a gold rush, but a hemp rush — it’s full on, we’re having people reaching out to us and they can see what they’re doing is accessible to everyone and is destigmatising it (hemp) by not even intentionally destigmatising it, but by just being ourselves.
Totally, just by producing accessible clothing
Anna: Yeah, there’s a few hemp brands with men’s stuff, but really not many with women’s. But we still want to do lots of men clothes.
It’s kind of got the linen vibe that everyone’s getting around at the moment
All: Yeah, it does
I think the future of hemp is going to be huge because you can access all those different styles of it, but I think all those bigger brands aren’t just switching over because they’re already established and it’s more expensive.
So, is hemp easy to work with?
Brittany: Yeah, because our hemp is woven, we have come across a few bumps in the road regarding the stitching and the seams and things. That’s way we want to get to Nepal so we can find a fabric that we can produce and not have to worry about that stuff. Hemp is really seasonal as well, so we started with a really fine hemp and then it went and we based our whole brand on that hemp fabric and then it changed. We had to go with the thicker hemp which has worked beautifully, so it’s interesting, because it’s not fully there in the industry, we’ve really had to work with hemp, not hemp work with us, so that’s also a factor that comes into making our clothing. We also can’t really have many buttons, it’s interesting, it’s pretty difficult.
Where do you see the future of hemp in fashion?
Isabella: I think not being there for the whole design process as well in India has been part of the difficulty of working with hemp but recently we were shown a full work book of all these samples of hemp — from hemp corduroy, hemp denim and every kind of fabric you could imagine in hemp and I don’t think those fabrics would be difficult to work with — but our fabric is loosely woven and soft so I think that’s why we find more difficulties.
Anna: But I think the future of hemp is going to be huge because you can access all those different styles of it, but I think all those bigger brands aren’t just switching over because they’re already established and it’s more expensive.
Brittany: So we want every single clothing that’s new to be produced with hemp. Like this isn’t just exclusive to us, this is like “every brand, get on hemp.” There’s no reason for them not to. You can do any fabric in hemp. But currently we feel like we’re the underdogs of the fashion industry.