Jeans giant Kontoor Brands, owner of the Wrangler and Lee brands, is expanding its collaboration with Panda Biotech to bring traceability and scale to the textile-grade cottonised hemp grown and processed in the United States.
As Kontoor and Panda Biotech work toward the commercialisation of domestically grown and processed hemp, the companies are focused on traceability from farm to product. Industrial hemp is a regenerative crop due to its ability to grow with little water, minimal-to-no pesticides and herbicides, production of a high per acre fibre yield, and absorption of more carbon dioxide per acre than any forest or commercial crop.
Through the Panda Biotech collaboration, which first kicked off in 2019 after the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Kontoor plans to have US-grown and processed hemp in market in its denim apparel by 2023.
“Sustainable hemp creates the perfect complement fibre to cotton,” says Dhruv Agarwal, denior director of global material innovation and product development, Kontoor Brands.
“Our work with Panda Biotech has been focused on making truly sustainable hemp, unlocking an additional commercialised fibre crop for American farmers, and providing consumers with access to more sustainable apparel.”
Dixie Carter, president of Panda Biotech, adds: “As a leading global denim manufacturer, with vast experience in bringing innovative fibres and processes to market, Kontoor Brands has been an invaluable ally as we build the largest industrial hemp processing facility in the United States for high-quality, textile-grade fibre and hurd for numerous sustainable manufacturing applications.
“We have been working with Kontoor since our company was founded, and we are aligned in our desire for our domestically grown fibre to be the most traceable hemp in the world and processed using renewable practices.”
Panda Biotech is currently developing large-scale, industrial Hemp Gin facilities, the first of which is located in Wichita Falls, Texas, and will be operational in March 2022.
Last week, Pakistan’s vertical denim manufacturer AGI Denim agreed the first global production partnership with Panda Biotech to use US-grown industrial hemp that can be tracked and traced back to its American farmers.
While hemp is trending in a number of industries globally, when it comes to apparel production, its use is relatively new.
Ali Tekken, R&D director of AGI Denim, touted the benefits of hemp and why it is proving a worthy contender to cotton during a webinar for the recent Kingpins24 virtual event.