Learning about hemp from 8000 Kicks co-founder, Bernardo Carreira, whose waterproof sneakers might be more sustainable than cotton.
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When it comes to textiles, sustainable fashion brands have a variety of low-impact and sustainable materials to choose from. Some companies swear by organic cotton, while others opt for leather alternatives such as apple leather. Hemp, a sustainable, strong natural fiber known for its durability, may just be the next go-to sustainable textile and the future of eco-friendly fashion.
One brand fully embracing this unique textile is the sustainable footwear brand 8000Kicks. Co-founder Bernardo Carreira noticed the immense pollution caused by the fashion industry and set out to create a sustainable fashion brand with products made from hemp. This vision soon became a reality when co-founders Bernardo and Otilia, his grandmother, successfully created the world’s first waterproof hemp shoe. Seeing this textile’s potential, Bernardo and Otilia expanded 8000Kicks’ product lineup to include backpacks, hats, socks, wallets, and belts.
I had the opportunity to test out 8000Kicks’ SunSlide Hemp Slip-on shoes. Upon slipping on these shoes, I immediately noticed the soft hemp insole which felt like stepping on a cloud. Next, I noted the shoes’ study shape and strong yet breathable material. While cotton slip-on shoes typically lose their shape, the hemp material helps 8000Kicks’ slip-on shoes maintain their form.
When embarking on a nature walk in the SunSlide shoes, I appreciated the good tread and waterproof material. I purposely stepped in several puddles to test this waterproof feature and found the water effortlessly beading off the hemp material. As for style, these shoes come in neutral colors that match any casual and athletic outfit. I also admire the shoes’ quality stitching. The comfortable material and durability of these shoes leaves me inclined to purchase more hemp products and learn more about this unique textile.
The Wellness Feed had the pleasure of engaging in conversation with Bernardo about hemp as a sustainable fashion textile and his growing company 8000Kicks.
When embarking on this business venture, what was one fact about hemp you learned that surprised you?
To be honest, when we started this project, we didn’t really know the properties of hemp. We knew it was cool, but we didn’t know about how sustainable and durable it was. When we came up with the idea it was more of a one-off funny business idea. But a few weeks into our research, and when we actually ordered hemp, we realized that the fabric was way better than most stuff out there. Immediately, we realized that this fiber was a game changer, and that’s when it all started to be more serious.
Was hemp always the ideal textile or did the brand explore other eco-friendly textiles?
We are millennials and we care about the environment. For us starting a business has to be sustainable by default instead of a feature. It’s an attitude and not a choice. For that reason, all our materials are selected carefully with that in mind. Hemp is our number 1 material, but we also use recycled cardboard boxes, biodegradable cornstarch mailer bags, recycled polyester, recycled soles, etc etc.
Why is hemp an ideal material to use when creating sustainable footwear?
Hemp has a bunch of unique characteristics that make it ideal for shoes and apparel:
- It’s durable. Unlike cotton which has short fibers, Hemp can grow up to 4 meters tall, so the fibers grow a lot taller and they don’t break as easily.
- It’s anti-bacterial and breathable, which makes it a great material for shoes, and they won’t smell as bad.
- Unlike other fiber, It absorbs CEO from the atmosphere capturing it in the soil.
- Unlike other crops, It replenishes the nutrients in the soil as it is a weed.
Can you elaborate on how you achieve these lower levels of CO2?
“The average emissions for a pair of running shoes is 14 Kg of CO2. We’ve managed to reduce that to 4.1 Kg of CO2.”
The main science is to use vegan materials, especially Hemp. Leather and wool normally mean that you need cattle and you need to feed them and take care of them. Because our shoe is made of plants, all impact is lower. Then hemp absorbs CEO from the atmosphere, capturing it in the soil.
How do you practice reducing waste and minimizing your environmental impact?
We are not perfect, but we work hard in that direction. There’s always more stuff we can do, and it is a never-ending process. We are already working on testing new hemp formats for our soles, the box, etc etc. The more we can hempify our product, the lower impact it will have. So our philosophy is to use as much as possible of the fiber. To offset carbon emissions we also plant trees for every order we ship.
What is one misconception the public has about hemp that you would like to set straight?
The one important misconception we need to clarify is that industrial hemp is not for smoking, and our shoes are not for consumption. You might be laughing, but you would not believe the amount of people that ask this. It’s important to clarify that hemp is the sober cousin of marijuana and it has been used for millennium to make ropes and ship sails.
Which 8000Kicks product do you find yourself reaching for most often and why?
The Explorers continue to be our best sellers, but the new backpacks are catching up quite well in terms of sales 😀