Kontoor Brands, Inc., the global apparel company that offers denim brands such as Lee and Wrangler, has announced an expansion of its collaboration with Dallas-based Panda Biotech, LLC, a specialized company in the industrial hemp-fiber industry. With this collaboration, Kontoor Brands and Panda Biotech want to bring traceability and scale to the textile-grade cottonized hemp grown and processed in the United States.
“Sustainable hemp creates the perfect complement fiber to cotton. We are excited by the opportunity to advance the denim industry’s use of environmentally friendly hemp to craft high-quality, eco-conscious apparel,” said Dhruv Agarwal, senior 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 commercialized fiber crop for American farmers, and providing consumers with access to more sustainable apparel.”
Denim jacket made with hemp from the Lee x H&M capsule
As Kontoor and Panda Biotech work toward the commercialization of domestically grown and processed hemp, the companies are focused on traceability from farm to product. Industrial hemp is a regenerative crop that grows with little water, minimal-to-no pesticides and herbicides, high per acre fiber yield production and absorption of more carbon dioxide per acre than any forest or commercial crop.
“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 fiber for numerous sustainable manufacturing applications,” said Dixie Carter, president, Panda Biotech. “We have been working with Kontoor since our company was founded, and we are aligned in our desire for our domestically grown fiber to be the most traceable hemp in the world and processed using renewable practices. We are excited to be working with Kontoor and its iconic global brands to expand access to domestically grown and processed hemp,” she added.
Industrial hemp fiber
Kontoor Brands is focused on a series of initiatives aimed to preserve the health of the planet. It recently announced the expansion of its Indigood program, an initiative that debuted in 2019 with the introduction of foam-dyed denim, and has expanded to include water savings technology in apparel fabric production by using at least 90% less water than conventional fabric production.
Through the Panda Biotech collaboration, which first kicked off in 2019 after the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Kontoor Brands plans to have US grown and processed hemp in the market in its denim apparel by 2023.