Interview of Hempy’s owner Albert Lewis.
Interviewed by: Josh Davis for hemp.com
Hemp.com’s Senior Editor Josh Davis sat down with the owner of HEMPY’S, Mr. Albert Lewis to discuss hemp and its future in America…
Davis: It’s cold in New York. I went looking for a hat and thought, “I wonder if they make hemp hats?” Lo and behold they do. And you make them.
Lewis: Yes we do! Hemp hats were the first hemp product we ever produced. Hemp backpacks and surf trunks followed soon thereafter.
Davis: How did you learn about hemp? What drew you to it?
Lewis: I was studying Environmental Science at UCSB and I was curious about all things green and eco-friendly. I happened upon a ‘hemp festival’ and picked up some information on hemp and its environmental benefits. My interest grew from there.
Davis: And that lead to you creating HEMPY’S?
Lewis: Well later on I was getting a Master’s degree in Public Policy and I wanted a hemp backpack for school. I began searching for a nice hemp backpack and thought the prices were too high. I decided I could make them cheaper and so I started a company to do just that. Funny thing is I was very wrong (about being able to make them cheaper). But I was able to make them better than my competition…and a company was born.
Davis: You’re products are Made in America…but that’s not the whole story. You have to import the hemp that you use. Has it been difficult or frustrating having to import your supplies as opposed to getting them here?
Lewis: Absolutely. And on many different levels. In addition to the irregular supply and quality issues, there is also a lack of variety and new product development.
Davis: Why is that? Does the irregular supply cause a lack of product development?
Lewis: Product development and innovation are largely a function of market demand and market volume. If there isn’t enough sales volume to justify the innovation it just won’t happen. It’s that classic chicken and egg story. Innovative fabric producers require market demand and support to thrive. But hemp clothing and accessory manufacturers need cutting edge fabrics to create contemporary and marketable hemp fashions. Slowly, both sides are pulling each other upwards. But it will take time. My sense is that legalizing hemp production in the United State could expedite that process for both hemp fabric producers and hemp fashion designers.
Davis: Take me through the process of making your products from design to tangible hemp apparel.
Lewis: The birth of a new HEMPY’S product is probably very similar to the process that a songwriter goes through when creating a new song. First of all, like a song, it doesn’t always happen the same way. This month we may create a new design with steps A, B and C. Next time around the steps leading to the launch of a new HEMPY’S product may be totally different. Or the same steps will be present but they might not happen in the same sequence. Generally we start with a need or and inspiration. I have to admit that the process often begins when I want something for myself. Either way, we study the idea by looking at what else is being done by others or what has been done successfully or unsuccessfully in the past. Then we combine the best of what’s out there with the best of our own ideas and synthesize into something new.
Davis: Are you frustrated with peoples perceptions of what hemp is?
Lewis: Not anymore. After 17 years in the business I’ve become immune to it. Our daily existence (the hemp industry and the successful companies therein) are the best medicine for those perceptions. When someone holds a high quality hemp product in their hand those negative or misinformed perceptions generally go right out the window.
Lewis: I think over time we’d have better quality, more variety and more dependable relationships with our suppliers.
Davis: Are there any business incentives for you to use hemp? Any state or federal incentives?
Lewis: No. To put it all on the table, though, the exclusivity and mystique of hemp has provided us with a unique and somewhat sheltered niche in which to thrive.
Davis: Given that it is a niche’ market is there room for competition, for growth in hemp products or has the market reached saturation?
Lewis: I think there will always be room. There are so many uses for hemp and so many unexplored avenues for hard working entrepreneurs to explore. The possibilities are phenomenal.
Davis: Where do you see the hemp industry going in the future?
Lewis: I see hemp as a major building block for the emerging green economy. Although I see hemp fashion continuing to thrive and expand, I envision the larger growth occurring in more practical sectors of the hemp industry including food, paper, building materials and fuel. Once industrial hemp is legalized in this great nation I think it will open up the gates for excitement and innovation. Readily available domestic raw materials would foster a more tangible and practical environment for entrepreneurs to tap into this historic and powerful resource.
End Of Interview
If you are interested in seeing all the products offered by Hempy’s please visit. http://www.hempys.com/index.php