Amsterdam might be famous for its weed-selling coffee shops, but one establishment has carved out yet another niche for this versatile product. Maybe you can’t throw a stone without hitting a weed-themed souvenir shop around here, but HempWorks (Nieuwendijk 13) is another story altogether.
started as a seed company in 1993 and, like their seeds, grew into a healthy dry goods store that supplies clothes, bags, and hemp accessories that should be on the Christmas list of every environmental consumer. Nine years ago they developed the Hoodlamb brand and the Classic jacket, a must-have for sporty people.
You’ve heard of hemp, hemp oil, hemp rope, but do you really know what hemp is, where it comes from, or what it’s used for? Recently, I sat down with Adi Lev of HempWorks to learn more. Lev, who is originally from Israel, has worked for the company for about ten years. Lev defends her product, “We believe in hemp production. We know how good it is for the environment, for the people, for everyone, so why not?” The owner of the company, Douglas Mignola, an American from San Diego, is about as passionate about hemp as anyone can be. There happen to be three different species of the cannabis plant: Indica, Sativa, and Ruderalis. The first two are broadly known for their psychoactive properties. Their flowers or “buds” amount to the sticky stuff we put in our pipes, papers, and bongs. The third, however, makes for a pretty amazing fabric. Hemp is an all-purpose “miracle plant,” says Lev, because it’s one of the most versatile plants known to man. To grow, just add water! (Literally, no pesticides, no fertilizers).
Mignola visits the production factories in China at least three times a year. According to Lev, “He knows the people that work for us. He makes sure that the working conditions are good. It’s pretty much 99% fair trade – as much as it can be.” The hemp is grown in a small village in China, right next door to the factory where HempWork’s Hoodlamb line is produced.
Lev explained why buying hemp products is important: “The main problem is that with big corporations, fashion becomes cheaper and cheaper because its using cheap labor and cheap materials. It’s simply bad for the environment and the people. Big fashion corporations do six seasons a year and charge €5-10-15 per garment, which makes you have a huge closet full of clothes that you throw away once they go out of style, which is also bad for the environment.” She goes on, “What we do is offer a good quality product that you don’t have to replace every year. You spend a little bit more money on it but you know you have it forever and you also get to give back to society and the earth. We still try to be fashionable and accessible but we have an ideology behind it and most companies don’t.”
Whether you ski or surf, the classic Hoodlamb jacket is versatile enough to take on just about any journey. “The idea of the jacket is to keep you warm but also be versatile enough to allow you to do sports.”
Mignola is a surfer and when the company was just starting, says Lev, “He had the idea for a jacket that would keep him warm when he goes out of the water, but would also be flexible enough for him to run or carry things.”
The jacket is perfect for an active lifestyle. Mignola’s team clearly designed it with utility and purpose in mind: It contains a secret pocket that fits a passport, a special dispenser for rolling papers, a special container for your headphones, a front pocket with a built in sunglass-cleaning material, and two more secret pockets on the wrists of the sleeves that fit your phone (so you can take it out like a superspy!). The front pockets close magnetically. The hood is detachable. The lining is a software acrylic-hemp blend, which makes it very breathable and very warm. Every year they increase the percentage of hemp within the acrylic blend, so every year the product gets more and more ecological.
Nine years ago, they sold the Classic jacket, which remains a best seller, but have since expanded into accessories such as earmuffs, gloves, bags, and leg warmers in addition to sleeveless jackets and fur hoodies. Every year they add to and change the line, offering new colors and cuts. In addition to the Hoodlamb line, HempWorks also carries other hemp brands such as HempAge, Madness, and Braintree. In the store you’ll find garments, shoes, and other products containing organic hemp-blends, organic cotton, and organic bamboo.
In accordance with the environmentalist’s creed, HempWorks also keeps it local by doing the open-air market at Westerpark every first Sunday of the month, but you can purchase your new winter coat or any of their other fine hemp products from their online store if you don’t happen to be in Amsterdam.
Mignola and his team might be credited with starting a trend. The crew on Dutch TV show Sea Shepherd (which flies under the Dutch flag) wears Hoodlamb products exclusively. Twenty percent of the proceeds from Sea Shepherd sales go straight back into the anti-whaling organization. The environmentalist crew is in good company. On the walls behind the counter of the store are signed photos of celebrities such as Woody Harrelson and Snoop Dogg wearing their very own Hoodlamb jackets.