Grass Roots: Gav Lawson

Founded back in 1999, THTC (The Hemp Trading Company) produces eco-friendly clothing using hemp and other sustainable materials. Twenty years on, it has become an influential street wear label, worn by everyone from Woody Harrelson to Ed Sheeran and Rag ‘n’ Bone man. The brand has won multiple awards, including the prestigious PEA Award (People and Environmental Achievement Award). 

Gav Lawson2

How did you come up with the idea for THTC?

Back in the nineties, my brother was studying environmental politics and had learnt all about the benefits of hemp as a crop. He started a society at university called Hempology, which got a pretty good following. I was studying in Bristol at the same time, so I started a hempology society down there as well, based on what he’d told me about it. After we’d finished university, we started THTC together in an effort to bring hemp to the high street. We really wanted to shine a light on it and bring it back to the mainstream. We could have chosen to produce anything from plastics to paper, but we picked clothing. Global warming was on the agenda and we felt we needed to spread the story. 

THTC family

What was the appeal of hemp?

The planet really needs a plant like hemp – it’s been a kind of a savior all-round crop with thousands of different by-products. It is so strong and durable. One of my hemp tees costs around £8 to produce but it will last 15-20 years, whereas a t-shirt produced by a brand such as Primark would cost more like 30 or 40p to produce, at a guess, and is likely to lose its shape or fall apart after a few washes. Hemp is a lot stronger and you can grow it with about a tenth of the water than you would use for conventional cotton, most of which is grown with loads of pesticides. By using hemp and only working with factories with a strong ethical policy, we are trying to encourage slow fashion – encouraging people to buy less and buy better quality.

What are some of the misconceptions about hemp?

The misconceptions about hemp are all part of a propaganda campaign that started in the 1930s when competitors realised it was a massive threat to all these other industries. They wanted to wipe out natural fabrics and have everyone buying rayon, nylon and other materials, which all derive from petroleum. Hemp has so many diverse uses. Anything you can make out of timber, you can also make out of hemp – so boats, sailcloth, rope – it’s all possible. You can even make viable bio-diesel out of it. 

Where do you source your hemp?

When we started out, we sourced our hemp from Romania but it was quite rough and not particularly pleasant to wear. That was 20 years ago though, and things have come a long way since then. For our second range, we swapped to a Nepalese supplier, but around the same time the Chinese started really upping the game in terms of hemp production. It’s been part of their culture for thousands of years, so we went out there. We’ve been using the same two producers over there ever since. 

How much do you know about CBD?

I’ve been doing hemp trade shows for the last twenty years and the CBD market has really taken over. I think the CBD and the hemp renaissance has come at a really good time. People have realized the health benefits of CBD – it doesn’t have a psychoactive effect and it can help with thousands of different ailments, from epilepsy to headaches and stress. CBD could replace pharmaceuticals, so of course, there is a lot of lobbying and resistance against it. 

What is next for THTC? 

We are on tour with UB40 right now, doing all of their merchandise – and we’re doing a couple of new ranges this year too – hemp socks and hemp underwear. We’ve also got a lot of celebrations this year to celebrate being in business for 20 years. 

Jason Flemyng

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