Style & design: Items and Icons Hemp

It's official: Britain's latest cash crop is cannabis sativa with all the narcotic properties taken out of the seed to please the Home Office. Thousands of acres of hemp have been sown in East Anglia under government licence.

Hippies have always gone on about grass, proclaiming the merits of a great natural and age-old product. But now the tide is turning. We're at the birth of a great new Eco conscious movement. One acre of hemp yields the same biomass for papers, textiles etc as four acres of trees. Espirit used hemp fibre for fashion. So did Hemp Union for T shirts. They are also marketing vegan hemp burgers and drinks. Lister in Bradford are weaving hemp into silks and cottons for the most crunchy new fabrics that look like hopsack and sackcloth. It has the unique property of becoming incredibly hard, silky or sensuous when mixed with other fibres. Hemp fibre is making its way into bumpers on cars because it is tough and malleable in mixes that harden, and its fibres are being woven to make heavy duty upholstery. Trials are under way to make a medium density hemp fibreboard for the construction industry. Its seeds are pressed for oils used in foods and cosmetics, the pulp for animal litter, the fibrous stem for textiles and papers. In 1993, Hemcore, of Essex (01371 820 066) gained the first licence to grow and process Cannabis Hemp and has a factory to utilise every part of the plant.

Banner-like table runner `Abinger' measures 243cm x 35cm in 100 per cent hemp, pounds 15.50 in gold, lilac, green and mauve from Habitat. Yellow Jeans with hemp streetcred (above right) from Urban Poison. Prices from pounds 70. (Details, 0171-209 3175)

Cushions (below) are a blend of 20 per cent hemp 80 per cent linen in natural range. Jacket (right) and waistcoat, also in natural range, in cotton and hemp blend. Details from Listers of Bradford (01274 542 222)

BMW's eco-consciousness means rediscovering hemp for soft, durable car seats as in this Z3 1.9 Roadster. Prices from pounds 21,480 (for the whole car)

Hemp oil is made by cold pressing, which uses low levels of energy. Adding hemp oil to traditional handmade soaps gives it a mild, antiseptic skin healing property with subtle aroma. Three bars in hemp bag pounds 3 plus p&p. Details from Hemp Union Cannabis Sativa Clothing and Accessories, Hull (01482 225328)

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