Hempsmith, a local hemp clothing business run by NC State Wilson College of Textiles graduate Arlo Estill, started out as a joke. Arlo Estill’s brother, Zafer Estill, planted the seeds of the business in high school when he embroidered a cannabis leaf onto a hemp T-shirt, playing on designs from companies like Ralph Lauren.
Zafer Estill recognized the compatibility of industrial hemp as a strong, much more sustainable alternative to plastic fibers used for clothing manufacturing. His initial idea later blossomed into an innovative clothing company.
After Zafer Estill’s passing in 2016, Arlo Estill took over the business using Zafer Estill’s original designs. True to its founder’s original goal, Hempsmith’s mission remains to spark a restorative local economy through industrial hemp.
“Our main goal is to bring hemp home, so we want to create a market that can cause the North Carolina farmer to grow industrial hemp,” Arlo Estill said.
Unlike other synthetic fibers, industrial hemp grows tall quickly and with little need for land and other resources. While it’s often mistaken and stigmatized for a marijuana plant, hemp carries minimal amounts of THC and is commonly used to make textiles, clothing and food. With deep roots that draw carbon back into the land, hemp decreases waste production. It’s a strong choice for manufacturing given its durable, yet soft, texture.
Hempsmith offers a variety of clothing including T-shirts, hoodies, lounge pants, and hats artfully branded through screen printing, tie dying, and embroidery. The company currently sources fabric from overseas but is working to bring hemp production to the Carolinas.
“It’s a great new textile, it’s super sustainable, and it really does change the story of clothing because, unlike synthetic base clothing, the clothing that we sell is actually very good for the environment and replenishes the soil,” said Anthony Medeiros, the president of Hempsmith.
Medeiros, who graduated from NC State this past spring with a degree in business administration, got involved with the company after spotting a Hempsmith pop-up shop on campus and later reaching out to Arlo Estill. Since then, Medeiros has been involved with all facets of the business, from screen printing T-shirts to organizing pop-up shops.
As a company, Hempsmith prides itself on its rugged, stylistic nature. Through the contributions of a small team, each piece of apparel is hand-made at their storefront at The Plant in Pittsboro, North Carolina.
While Hempsmith is already making a name for itself, the company hopes to influence the pre-existing fashion industry to become more sustainable through hemp production. Both Arlo Estill and Medeiros emphasized the need for major brands like Nike, Patagonia and Walmart to switch to a more environmentally friendly textile.
“There needs to be some change in this industry, and I think we can shape that without being the actual player,” Arlo Estill said. “We can just influence the big players that are already around.”
Those interested can visit Hempsmith at the storefront in Pittsboro. Buyers can also find Hempsmith at local pop-up shops across the state and through their newly launched website, where they can stay updated on all that’s to come.