THE HEMP ON TOAST STORY

Hi, I'm Ilona.

Clothes and how we wear them has been a fascination of mine since I can remember. Whilst studying for a degree in International Development, I used clothes-making as an antidote to reading, and alongside this I discovered the world of plant dyeing, and stinking dye pots on the hob became part of the kitchen furniture. Hemp On Toast was born a few years after graduating, as a positive statement, a way of using the skills I had to help open up more options in the world of sustainable fashion.

 

Fashion means many things to people. Unfortunately, in the world of international development, it more often than not signifies agricultural pesticides, massive water use, micro-plastics and sweat shops. 

Hemp On Toast is my response to this. There are countless environmental and social problems in the fashion industry, but also countless examples of creative ways of responding and doing things differently. This is mine.

SIMPLICITY 

Each Hemp On Toast garment is designed on the principles of simplicity and versatility. Part of the world of fashion's current approach is to appeal to our need for constantly renewing and redefining ourselves. To feel that we are lacking and so need to add. 

Hemp on Toast aims to do the opposite. To go back to the basics, to strip away and to appeal to our ability for simplicity. The clothes are intended for day-to-day wear, to fulfil the staples of our clothing needs. And finally, to address the daily need for showing respect and care for the world.

 

WHY HEMP?

Hemp has long been touted as an 'eco option' due to the way it grows and the plant's many uses. It is however often forgotten as a beautiful fibre that is naturally antibacterial and hard wearing, and was used to make garments for millenia before cotton took over as the cheapest (initially due to slave labour) fibre on the market. 

 

Hemp takes only 20% of the amount of water needed to grow the average cotton crop. With ever increasing demands on fresh water reserves globally, hemp is not just an environmentally friendly choice but a social one too.

Hemp On Toast garments are made from blends of organic hemp and organic cotton, with a typical fibre content of 55% organic hemp, 45% organic cotton. Organic fibres are grown with no harmful pesticides or herbicides. Part of organic production also means looking after the soil, helping to build fertility and decreasing the need for as much water use. This also helps build resilience in the face of extreme weather conditions such as droughts, which cotton producing countries frequently face. 

NATURAL DYES

 The range of Hemp On Toast clothes are all dyed using a carefully chosen selection of natural dyes, picked for their uniqueness and durability.

Natural dyes are different to synthetic dyes in many ways. Like an impressionist painting, they have a wealth of different tones within one overall colour impression, something that is pleasing to the eye.

They are also alive. Dyes will vary depending on soil and weather conditions, and as they age, they develop new subtle shades and depths.

 

There is great joy in having a garment that ages and changes with its use, accompanying us in our life's gradual changes.

See the swatch of core dyes below. I am also continuously exploring all the thousands of other plants that are out there and documenting my experiments. If you're feeling a creative urge to co-create something unique for yourself in hemp, check out the news page for inspiration.

 

ONION SKINS

Onion skins produce golden-peachy shades when used purely, and when combined with rust, they turn a beautiful shade of green. Occasionally I also add some crushed salt crystal deoderant for making special gold tones.

 

Sourcing onion skins is a community effort! I go to Norwich Market every Monday morning to pick up onion skins from the lovely Ana at Cocina Mia. As well as that there are a host of dedicated onion skin collectors – friends and family  scattered around Norwich and the country.

POMEGRANATE SKINS

Sunshine yellow, khaki greens and slate grey.

Collecting pomegranate skins is another unique community effort: part of Hemp On Toast is the conversations and friendships that begin through efforts to collect waste plant sources like discarded pomegranate skins. There’s a growing number of pomegranate skin collectors in Norwich.

WALNUT HUSKS

Soft grey-brown shades, created by combining the fleshy outer shells of walnuts with rust.

Take a walk along The Avenues in the summer in the shade of these elegant trees. Or spot me collecting the walnuts on a cold autumn day.

Analogue photography by Joseph Hayes @theillusionofdepth and Callum Painter @callumpainter