Nimbin-based hand-woven hemp clothing business a world-first
NIMBIN adventurer, entrepreneur and author Gerald Taylor has started a hemp clothing business that he believes is the only company in the world hand-weaving hemp fabrics.
The business, JR Weaving, is now employing about 50 people on the tiny island of Koh Dach in Cambodia that has traditionally been a hub for silk weaving.
Mr Taylor has an adventure tourism business based in Phnom Penh, running boat trips on the Mekong River.
A couple of years ago he built a boat which sprung a leak on its maiden voyage and he ended up spending a good deal of time with the villagers of Koh Dach repairing the boat.
He learned their silk weaving work had been drying up for years and saw an opportunity to see if they could utilise their traditional skills to make hemp clothing.
So he imported half a tonne of raw hemp thread from China and the Ukraine and believes the super fine thread will be welcomed in the western world.
"Sitting in the jungle watching the first metres roll off the old wooden looms I knew we had something special," he said.
"The material was so fine it was semi see-through, and that was using raw hemp thread.
"Blending it with the local silk thread created something else again."
The weavers, mostly women, work on old wooden looms under their house.
"This is the opposite of sweat shop labour," he said.
"They are paid well, the conditions are good and they are happier than they've ever been.
"It takes one person a full day to make a metre of hemp material from the raw fibre."
The spun hemp material is then made into clothing and the business has just sold its first shipment to Japan.