When Al and Shawna Hanan moved to Ashland they immediately noticed that something was missing, a good hemp clothing store. They quickly set to work to do the research and make relationships with local hemp clothing vendors to create Ashland’s very own Hemporium. a sustainable, earth friendly hemp clothing store. We stopped by to speak with Al and Shawna to learn more about their store, the vision behind it, and to take a tour of some of some of the fun and creative products they are bringing to our town.
Al and Shawna, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let’s start with the Inspiration behind opening Ashland’s first hemp clothing store?
We moved to Ashland in 2008 after living in Wolf Creek for a few years. We came from Lake Tahoe where I had lived for the past 30 years. Upon the birth of our son, we knew that we wanted to move into a community that offered great schools and a well rounded life for our child. Ashland certainly fit that bill – to a tee. It is an amazing city with a great sense of both community and beauty. While we were in the process of looking for a new place to call home, my wife Shawna noticed that in this great town there was not a hemp store. We set about to not only fill that gap but to create what we think is one of the best hemp clothing stores that we have been in. It has been a lifelong passion of my wife in creating a store that encompasses both.
Hemp clothing is not what it use to be. Can you tell us about the spectacular colors and selection you guys have to offer?
The history of hemp is the history of human beings. Hemp was used for clothing, rope, sail cloth, medicine, and even concrete since recorded history. The earliest records for hemp cultivation date back to China 5000 years ago, as well as the first medicinal use of hemp. For thousands of years, 90% of all ships’ sails and rope were made from hemp. The word ‘canvas’ comes from the Middle English word “canevas” which comes from the Latin word cannabis. For thousands of years, 90% of all ships’ sails and rope were made from hemp. 80% of all textiles, fabrics, clothes, linen, drapes, bed sheets, etc., were made from hemp until the 1820s, with the introduction of the cotton gin. Benjamin Franklin owned one of the first paper mills in America, and it processed hemp. Also, the War of 1812 was fought over hemp. Napoleon wanted to cut off Moscow’s export to England.
The first Bibles, maps, charts, Betsy Ross’s flag, the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were made from hemp, I could go on but I don’t want to put anyone to sleep, but if you want to find out more, drop by the shop and I will be glad to continue.
Most of us remember the early days of hemp clothing. It was rough burlap-type draw string pant, boxy cut shirts made by few and far away designers. Hemp has come a long way since the early days with designer care on both materials and design. The textiles are soft and supple and the color pallet is wonderful, even in clothes made with clay and natural dyes.
Al, how do you go about finding all the products you sell?
Our first priority is sustainability. The product needs to be made in a sensible and organic fashion. The second is local. We strive to find the best products that were being made locally, and on that we have found a true goldmine, with Hempress Arise, Blessed Lotus, Lost Boys Rags, Fresh Daily, as well as some very talented artists who make our jewelry. As we move more north we have Circle Creations, Xylem, and Tinctoria in Eugene. We then have Texture Clothing Intertwined Designs and Kate Quinn from Washington. Going to our neighbors in the great white north we have Nomads Hemp-ware and Maha Devi. It is all rounded out with some outstanding California lines like Dash Hemp, Satori, and Jung Maven. Along the way we formed not only some great business contacts, we have made some close personal friends.
Shawna, will you give us a tour of what we might expect to find in the store?
Well, right when you walk in the door you’ll notice a few things that are different about our store. To start with nearly everyone comments on the lovely earthy, herby smell created by the wonderful soaps, lotions, and candles we carry. The warm music, art, and people make the Hemporium feel like an extension of our home. On any given day while your children are playing with the toys in our toy box, they may meet our children, or find them playing hide-and-go-seek in the clothing racks. Buying clothes and gifts doesn’t have to feel like a chore. We want anyone to be able to come in and feel comfortable.
Cute doesn’t even begin to describe some of your kids clothing… some items are simply adorable.
I do kind of have an obsession with high quality organic consciously made, children’s clothing. I have really found a gold mine from locally pieced together vintage and organic fabrics to fair trade organic from places like India.
Shawna, what have been some of your favorite items you have purchased for your own children?
Kate Quinn Organics is a big part of our children’s wardrobe, so is Entertaining Elephants, they are definitely my favorites!
How about for yourself?
I always love the skirts. I have hemp skirts in nearly every color. But, right now my latest obsession are some wonderful pants by Intertwined Designs. It’s hard to keep them in stock! They are handmade in Bellingham, Washington. I love them because you can dress them up and take them out on the town, or throw on your boots and head out to the garden. They are so comfortable I hardly want to wear anything else.
Have you noticed any micro trends happening in Ashland around hemp clothing?
That’s the thing about hemp- it’s kind of beyond trendy. Conscious clothes are part of sustainable living, which is always fashionable especially in a community like Ashland.
Al, what are some your favorite lines?
I love Hemp Hoodlamb, Satori, and Circle Creations. you will see me about town wearing them most days. in summer I wear Sanuk sandals everywhere.
Al will you tell us a little about what role you see hemp playing in today’s society versus how it was perceived say in the 1980’s?
I think more of our politicians are realizing the great financial benefits that growing industrial hemp can have on the economy of the states. Fortunately for Oregon leading that cause is Senator Ron Wyden. Hemp is used in both France and England for building both houses and factories. England built a new processing plant recently that processes around 45000 tons of hemp a year. Canada has made hemp legal and the products range from food to fuel and everything in between. in the hemp world we are being left behind, the first fiberboard made from hemp was made in Oregon from fiber imported from France. As far as the 80’s are concerned, hemp was a novelty and we were into rape-the-land and pillage-the-environment style of industrial management.
How about Hemp Hoodlambs?
My second heavy hemp coat was a Hoodlamb. I bought it at a friends shop in South Lake Tahoe. I was a little disappointed in the first coat I bought there (it did not hold up to winters at almost 8000 feet where my house in Tahoe sat). Rick, the owner of the TAHOE Hemp CO suggested that I should give a Hoodlamb a try. I bought one and loved it. That was eight years ago. I just noticed a small bit of fraying on the sleeves and got myself a new one, now I have two of them, I call one my town coat and the other is my doing farm-work coat. I could not be happier with both of them.
Inside your store you have some original artwork and prints from Lindy Kehoe. Will you tell us how you went about getting her work in your store?
When I lived in Tahoe I owned a coffee house. It was a place for music, community and art as well as a pretty darn fine cup of coffee. I rotated art on the walls every few months and it was always a pleasure to see local artists on display. When we moved Into the Hemporium from our first location in the Underground, I found that I had all the wall space I needed to have art once again. So we started rotating the art on our walls. While Shawna and I were at the first Mystic Garden Party my wife saw a painting she just loved and wanted to have it in our house. We left our contact information and got a call that I could pick it up in Jacksonville, that is when I met Lindy Kehoe. She had the stature of an elf and a personality of a giant. We drank tea. I looked at her art. It was like finding a lost member of our family. I knew that Lindy’s art would fit in with our vision of what we had created, and we decided to become her gallery.
I must mention that along the way we have had a few other artists grace our walls: Holly Lorein Adams, Adele Hiles, Natalie Fletcher, and Hollyhock, ( who painted our signs and made our font, as well as a wonderful mural in our sons bedroom), and I must give them all of our heartfelt thanks.
It sounds like you guys like to have fun and have quite a fun time putting together your store for Ashlander’s and Southern Oregonians.
Yes, and it is a great joy to see people around town wearing hemp
Sustainable living is a big focus and interest for both of you. On Black Friday, while other merchants remained open for business you posted a note on your door saying you were closed for National Buy Nothing Day.
Black Friday is traditionally the start of the holiday shopping frenzy, some retailers are now starting it on Thanksgiving night adding too the fun, if you can call it fun. Black Friday is also international Buy Nothing Day, which we support by closing the store and spending time with friends and family. We look at it from the standpoint that you should buy what you need, not what you think you want. Loss-leaders and super low cost items are a false value. We provide quality products which are built to last. If you get gifts from our store for your friends and family, they won’t need replacing and you will be free to spend Thanksgiving weekend with them instead of shopping to replace the broken crap you got last year.
Let’s talk about some specific environmental benefits of hemp?
You like to open a virtual pandora’s box of opportunity for me to run off at the mouth.
First thought Hemp has the potential to replace all major non-renewable raw materials. Hemp fibre is stronger and more versatile than any other plant derived fibre, including cotton and wood. Hemp could also potentially replace petroleum products including plastics. Hemp can grow anywhere and doesn’t require pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. I have read it can lift heavy metals from polluted soil ( from my understanding the Russians used hemp to clean up after Chernobyl). It also adds nutrients to soil by tapping into sub-soil nutrients other plants cannot access,Deforestation is occurring at around 3% per year, and hemp is a far superior resource since it can be grown to maturity in 100 days. Hemp paper is far stronger and durable than paper made from trees. Hemp is used in the world’s major currency banknotes because it is so strong and water resistant. It is also a sustainable replacement for concrete. There are over 25000 uses for the hemp plant, it is truly an amazing plant.
My second thought is you and eat it. Hemp seeds are perhaps the purest, most nutritionally dense food on our planet. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, and are also the only edible seeds with gamma-linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid. In fact, its essential fatty acid ratio is absolutely perfect for our bodies) Many people think that it is impossible to be a vegan because protein comes from animal products such as meat and cheese. In actual fact, hemp seeds are a highly nutritious source of protein that is easily digested by the body in its natural raw state.
Ok, how about the most unusual item you have seen made of hemp?
A bridge in France built in the 6 century that is still standing and strong today.
Al, will you please talk about planned obsolescence we see in todays cotton clothing industry?
Hemp fiber is three times stronger than cotton. The first Levi’s were made out of hemp then that changed to cotton, I know that distress, and ripped jeans are always a fashion statement, however I have hemp pants I have had for years and they are still in great shape. We live in a disposable socioty where we use once and trash it. our landfills are full our resourses are tapped, hemp gives us a great alternative, its the plant that keeps on giving.
Finally any last thoughts or comments on creating a greener future in and around Ashland?
We love the idea of helping consumer culture to evolve. We would love to see a collective of businesses in ashland, maybe even the school district ban together and use our collective purchasing power to get volume pricing on things like hemp paper or building supplies. If everyone came together we could switch to these more sustainable products and make it cost effective for folks.
296 E. Main St.