Floaty fibres, accentuating the many shapes of women. Earthy colours, a palette reflecting our surroundings. Easy wear, acknowledging our varied lives. Each The Hemp Temple piece is rooted in free expression; fashion can often be loud and demand attention before the person wearing it is acknowledged. But with this Western Australia label’s pieces, the person comes before the garment.
This feeling of freedom and respect for the individual is rooted in The Hemp Temple’s ethos. Founded by three childhood friends, Brittany, Anna and Isabella, the label is vocal about sustainability, feminism, spirituality and empowered ways of living. Hemp was chosen for its positive impact on the planet, and from their home in Margaret River, the trio design clothes that have earned them a kind of cult following – their Instagram presence, where at time of writing has 42,000 followers, is radical and enlightened, challenging and thought-provoking. This no-holds-barred attitude to business ownership means they’ve created more than just a brand – they’ve fostered a movement.
Here, co-founder Isabella speaks about how they began the label, what motivates her, and the spiritual and ritualistic practises that shape them.
Who or what is inspiring your team at The Hemp Temple right now?
At the moment, we’re super inspired by musicians and artists. Brittany’s deep in reading Patti Smith and I’m actually listening to an audible about how to have ethical polyamory and opening the construct of relationships, so the inspiration spectrum is so wide and far. We’re inspired by people on so many different spectrums… anyone keeping a really solid voice and foundation of not getting too lost in these times, and maintaining a sense of groundedness and peacefulness, even when times are chaotic.
Your designs have very signature characteristics – they’re free-flowing and non-structural. Where does that style stem from? Is it from your personal style or what you believe friends and family want to wear?
It’s definitely a mix of what we want to wear – comfort, versatility and simplicity. We love wearing those elements, but it’s probably also the best design model for being able to clothe a lot of people, like a lot of different body shapes and a lot of different styles, they’re such basic colours, basic shapes – it’s just your everyday wear. That way, in my vision, is the most sustainable because you want to get the most out of it. The best way to make the most out of a resource is for it to be worn a lot.
You moved to Margaret River seven months ago. Why the move from Byron Bay to Western Australia?
It was just time for quite a big change. Sydney’s definitely not the place for our spirits, we definitely need a lot more nature and a lot more space, and Byron was a bit too busy and a bit too dense. So yeah, we just came here on a whim and we were like ‘let’s try there’ and we booked our flights over here from when we were travelling, we came here on the way back and kind of fell in love with the place and found our perfect home and just moved here, and it’s been so nice.
Does the land there feel very different to the East Coast? Do you feel different energies in your surroundings?
Absolutely. In Byron, it’s a very feminine, wet, wild, rejuvenative but also kind of intense, reflective energy. But over here, it’s very raw and very strong and very wild. You can kind of feel the ancient, because I think on the west of Australia, that’s where things have been not as developed, it’s pretty untouched. The actual sediment of the rock here is one of the oldest they’ve found on Earth, so it’s got this really strong, wild wilderness. The constantly changing elements of the wind and the spaciousness of the desert up north.
The family who make your clothes live in India. How did you meet them?
When we started the business it kind of began as a blog platform and a place to share different artists in the local community where we were living in Sydney and then it transmuted to selling a range of overalls from Bali. We then went on this huge adventure of trying to find ourselves and discover what would be a good thing to sell or create and just tried to keep that spectrum open, and then eventually through a series of events and meeting different people, we ended up in India.
I was at an ashram telling this woman that we wanted to create some textiles and things like that and she said “you gotta go to Pushkar, that’s the place that it’s happening” and we just stumbled into this man’s shop and ended up sitting on the floor drinking chai and talking about life for so many hours. We just had this really beautiful experience and ended up buying heaps of his stuff and heaps of different other stuff and came home to australia and did a market and sold out within a month of everything that we bought and messaged him and asked could you send us some more stuff and it just happened really organically.
How did working with hemp as a fibre come about?
I think two or three months in we watched the documentary The True Cost, and it was a massive wake up call – it’s actually not okay to just be unconsciously in an industry creating clothes because they look nice. We had this big conversation and we were like “it’s over, how can we possibly stay in this industry and be doing anything with integrity and be doing it well?”
Then we discovered hemp and were asking our maker “Do you have hemp? Do you have hemp?” and then a couple of weeks later, just out of the blue, he sent through a sample and we were like “change everything, change it all”
While hemp is a sustainable choice environmentally, your shipments come on planes and you’re getting your clothes made in far-flung places. How do you approach that environmental issue?
I think the main thing it comes down to is the actual facilities don’t exist yet in Australia. Hemp is starting to be grown in farms everywhere in Australia which is amazing… but I’m pretty sure there’s still not any production facility to transmit it into fibre. Even when it is created, it’s probably going to be an extreme markup because it’s the only plant and then from that being created to employing Australians is also super expensive. It’s actually the harsh reality that we live in, that in this economy and in this current state, we’re competing with fast fashion and people are still quite uneducated. To put a product out for 200 dollars that’s Australian-made is just extreme, you know? So it’s kind of like you have to pick and choose your battles in the industry and you can only just do your best. It works for us because we are still really small scale and we have tracked our line of production and we know what’s going on and we know who’s creating it and it’s still a small and humble business, we’re not big enough to go the full mile and get accredited and all of these things like that.
There’s also a lot to say about generalisations. People have a lot of generalisations about where you’re producing. Even names get stigmatised, like India and China, but you could be creating more ethically there than you may be in Australia. Sometimes you have to go deeper and analyse people’s intentions and the quality of their vision, then generally I find it will reveal itself, it will have integrity – the production line, if they really care, and if they don’t they can just cover it with green marketing and greenwashing and things like that.
Obviously this year has been a massive curveball in a number of ways. What changes has your business been through?
We had so much time to totally go into ourselves on a really deep new level and question our individual visions, our collective vision, and we just had this massive rebirth process for The Hemp Temple where at one point we were actually like “okay, I think we’re going to stop it now, I think it’s time”, and then that totally shifted again in two weeks and we were like actually we really feel the value, we really believe in it. It was this huge death and rebirth process of coming back to it and also through a series of encounters, this woman contacted me and she was a healer and works really closely with plant allies. I asked her if she’d mind having a session with me and guiding me through a conversation with hemp – to see how the plant feels as a being. So our team went through this huge process of really looking at hemp in a new way, as a really living entity and living being and questioning what its vision is and how it feels about the choices we make through our business and things like that, so obviously working on quite an energetic, subtle realm that a lot of people might not understand, but that was a huge part of the rebirthing process of really seeing hemp as an ally.
And finally, what are some of the regular rituals that you practice in your life?
I meditate most days. Also yoga, dance movement, free flow, art, I find anything that you approach in an intentional way becomes like a ritual. It depends, if I’m feeling like I need to connect with myself or with nature or with a loved one who’s not close or something like that, I set that intention and then I do a dance practice or a walking in nature practice. Anything essentially is a ritual. Having a bath is a ritual. Also working with moons, working with the blood cycle, looking at the stars every new moon when it’s dark, that’s a kind of a ritual that we’ve started to do together. We’ve done a lot of hemp rituals, walking into nature together and doing prayers and offering back to the earth hemp oil or hemp seeds and different things like that, just as a token of respect and giving back for all the resources that we take.