Making hemp fibres trendy from a secret store on K'Rd

  • Design
  • July 23, 2018
  • Findlay Buchanan
Making hemp fibres trendy from a secret store on K'Rd

Step into the second hand store, Waves Vintage, situated down a gully on Karangahape Road, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by fibres and fabrics. The woman at the wooden desk, Helen Young-Loveridge, sits beside her collection of secondhand clothes of which have been hand picked and shipped from Los Angeles to New Zealand. It’s all very curated, from her sexy 1960’s looking leather couch, to the various cottons and silks hung on display. Her new venture, Buddy, is the newest edition to the racks – and possibly the most significant – a new t-shirt range made of 55 percent hemp and 45 percent organic cotton.

Young-Loveridge has spent much of her time in the industry, initially studying fashion at Massey University, before working at streetwear and fashion store Good As Gold in Wellington, and later her role as an assistant then fashion coordinator at, Document Journal, an art and fashion based publication in New York. After slogging it overseas, she came back to our shores and sought to put her experience into a business. But entering the ever-saturated clothing market was problematic.

Young-Loveridge says, “I wanted to work for myself and had a lot of ideas about the clothing I wanted to sell to people. But every time I thought about starting my own brand, and design things, I would come to this realisation that the world has enough clothes produced in the usual model already.”

She’s not wrong either. The Guardian reported this year that the fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting industries, only topped by oil. And is further convoluted by plastic usage, waste, and the horrifying rate of water used in textile manufacturing, which reportedly floats into waterways filled with contaminants such as bleaches, acids, inks and dye. But it doesn’t have to be all petroleum, cottons and fast fashion – and Young-Loveridge has found an alternative by operating in the secondhand trade.

“I worked in New York with various vintage dealers where I was able to look into their archives. I realised there was a gap in the market in New Zealand for contemporary vintage, which was tailored for a modern customer.

“Waves is very much a for the love project, I am really passionate about vintage, I like going over and sourcing overseas, I like styling and shooting and then the rest of my time is Buddy."

The store opened in late April this year, and operates the gentle opening hours of two days a week on Friday's and Saturday's while she builds its online platform. It follows a model shared by those in the burgeoning secondhand clothing industry, huddled together on central city streets, who turn unwanted clothes from overseas into curated experiences for local buyers.

While Waves Vintage represents one of her ventures, last week she started another: a new hemp t-shirt range named 'Buddy', which seeks to create a better alternative to the stock standard blank t-shirt, while keeping an eye on the environment. Buddy is a collaboration of complementary minds, helped by Logan Smith (co-founder of design agency Sunday Best) – and Jayden Klinac the founder of For The Better Good (New Zealand’s first compostable drink bottles that deals with the full lifecycle of the product).

Asked how Buddy came to be, Young-Loveridge says, “It was quite organic, we started working on it last January, around the time that I had just moved back when I was still thinking about doing my own line of clothing, I had already owned hemp garments and was passionate about the product, and understood that hemp is a perfect fibre for clothes.”

“Then Jayden, a friend of mine who had also been talking about the same concept, agreed that we should start a new clothing line, which was later supported by our friend Logan who got wind of it and that is how Buddy was formed.”

The result sees a range of ‘Classic Hemp Tees’, which holds soft hues of blue, peach, and yellow, as well as staple black and white t-shirts. It represents a new slew of plant based alternatives, including flax, hemp, bamboo, and tencel, all vying to disrupt traditional cotton production, which still holds 78 percent of the natural fibre market. And is known for being fraught with energy, fertilisers, pesticides and water use. Hemp on the other hand uses less than 25 percent of water that cotton needs, requires no pesticides, and helps to regenerate and detoxify soil, alongside other benefits. And for the simpletons who believe hemp is a drug, the team confirms that their tees will not get you high.

Young-Loveridge says while the hemp clothing market is present in New Zealand and found in stores like Cosmic Corner and The Hemp Store, it’s often aimed at hippies, while Buddy aims to market for the everyday user who may never have considered hemp products before. While the t-shirts are 55 percent hemp, the other 45 percent is made up of organic cotton, which Young-Loveridge assures hasn’t been treated with any harmful chemicals to grow it. Further, she says the hemp t-shirts have been welcomed since its release, by both friends and foreign faces, who have remarked on the quality feel of the product.

The t-shirts are manufactured with a company in China, which both grows and processes the hemp, and handles the cutting and sewing side of the manufacturing. Young-Loveridge says the choice to manufacture the shirts in China didn’t come lightly, but is home to the best hemp fabric in the world, where the waste and production is controlled in one area without unnecessarily shipping the fabric.  

Despite this, Young-Loveridge says if she could she would retain manufacturing in New Zealand she would, however with a lack of infrastructure the cost is too high to cater for the volume required for the clothing line.

Asked if New Zealand has real potential for the use of hemp in the fashion space, Young-Loveridge says, “I think so, but a lot needs to change in the fashion industry in up skilling people in regards to manufacturing, which is a problem the whole fashion industry is facing at the moment. But I think there is a real potential for hemp in general, particularly in the fashion space, it’s pretty much a miracle fabric, it’s amazing.”

In regard to Buddy’s future, Young-Loveridge says while there are many ideas of future prospects, the difficulty is narrowing down the list.

She says that some hemp based tote bags are on their way, but for now, their focus is on the launch party on Thursday evening.

This story originally appeared on Idealog.

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