Fashion Update: Wearing the weed

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IF YOU see what looks like a cannabis plantation on your neighbour's roof, he may not be growing weed to smoke but to wear, writes Jessica Stein.

Hemp cloth, which comes from the cannabis plant, is increasingly being used for jeans, jackets and skirts. But you can't roll up your shirt and smoke it. Cannabis grown for hemp cloth is planted tightly together, while cannabis intended for recreational or medical use is a different variety which needs to be planted sparsely to synthesise enough THC (tetrahydrogannabinol) to get a high.

Instead, sativa hemp, for cloth, is environmentally-friendly, economical and legal. It can grow to five metres in 100 days without the aid of chemicals.

When Levi Strauss came up with the original hard-wearing trousers for gold diggers, they were made from hemp. In fact, until the Marijuana Tax law of 1937, when all hemp growing was banned in America, everything from tents to nappies was made of hemp. It has never been illegal to grow sativa hemp in the UK.

The young British designer Hussein Chalayan and the sporty clothing company Esprit are now both using hemp.

Maggie Ingham who graduated from Central Saint Martin's this month made her collection from 90 per cent hemp as well as pineapple fabric and recycled wool.

In Germany, it is already the height of fashion. A range of hemp clubwear called Maria Giovana is in demand, while hot Berliner indie band Rausch are marketing their own line of hemp clothing as well as making their CD covers out of hemp.

Over in Frankfurt, the design labels Smash and Itchy Coo both use hemp and Mathias Brockers' Hanfhaus (hemp house) has been thriving since last year along with his mail-order catalogue. In the UK, the leading apostle is Peter Messenger, whose company, Hemp UK, launches its first mail-order clothing range, Green Machine, later this summer. Those who want to wear the weed, rather than smoke it, can contact him on (0865) 311 1511.