Canada’s i.O.N. Delivers Eco-Friendly Fashions
The Canadian-based business, i.O.N., gives naturally derived, hemp-based products a modern edge.
The clothing store was established in 1999, and is formally known as Hemp and Company, it’s current house-branded clothing line.
i.O.N. — an acronym for “It’s Only Natural” — is owned and operated by Bill Finley and his wife, Lorna Knowles, in downtown Victoria, British Columbia.
The company has joined the likes of Oscar De La Renta, Nike and Stella McCartney to produce award-winning, eco-friendly fashions for all styles. All Hemp and Company-branded items are exclusively created by their team of designers, which includes Jen Christie, Jenn Cleary, and Colorado-native Gabriel Conroy.
“We retain 100 percent control of design for our house brand,” said Bill.
The chic collection of accessories, clothing and body care products cater to both women and men. Their lines include casual, and professional wear, such as pencil skirts, crop tops, leggings, cardigans, polos, socks and leggings, among more.
Popular styles include a basic three-quarter length sleeve boat and scoop neck T-shirts for women, says Bill. These T’s, along with their men’s long and short sleeve T’s, are always in demand. “Our new designs in dresses, skirts and unisex hoodies are also proving very popular,” Bill noted.
The company’s selection of accessories is diverse, and incorporates hemp cord, sunglasses, acupuncture mats, candles, and products for pets, foods wraps and scarves.
Textiles aside, the company features food and body care products from Canadian companies like Sea Wench Naturals, Merry Hempsters and The Hempenstuff Soaps. “The Good Seed Hemp Heart foods are organically grown in Saskatchewan. Sea Wench body care items, such as lip balm, lotions, shampoo and conditioner, have Canadian grown hemp oils and other natural ingredients,” said Bill.
Additionally, i.O.N offers hemp health pain relief creams manufactured by Real Heal and Apothecary, “Canadian brands that utilize hemp terpenes for relief from arthritis, sore muscles, headache and menstrual cramps” said Bill.
Hemp and Co original branded products are mainly made from hemp, explained Bill. “Our house brand generally uses a blend of 55 percent hemp and 45 percent organic cotton.”
As showcased throughout their inventory, the shop is committed to consciously crafted clothing by using eco-friendly, and recycled materials, which also include soy and bamboo.
“Bamboo is an excellent source of eco-friendly fabric because it is a plant that is 100 percent naturally grown — without assistance from humans. The plant itself is also completely sustainable and able to grow without any pesticides or fertilizers at all,” noted i.O.N.’s website.
Hemp-based materials are renowned for their ability to reduce carbon footprints and support agricultural, Bill explained, “Natural fabrics are generally farmed [whereas] non-natural fibers are made from petroleum products, which are mined. Hemp is grown with little to no agricultural chemicals,” he added. “Water for the plant is minimal, especially compared to the usage of [non organic] cotton.”
These materials aren’t just sustainable; they’re naturally soft and durable. Soy, for instance, is known as the “vegetable cashmere,” while bamboo has any-static properties.
Hemp breathes well, and has natural UV protection of SPF 15. It’s also known for its anti-microbial and anti-mildew properties as well as being one of the world’s most diverse and resilient materials, which grow softer over time. “Clothing lasts three to four times longer than a comparable cotton garment,” said Bill.
House-branded products are made in Canada from fabrics purchased from China, which have produced hemp textiles for thousands of years. “Canadian farmers are allowed by law to grow hemp, but alas, there is [a lack of] manufacturing plants that make textile from the stock of the hemp plant in this country,” says Bill, adding that “American textile mills could switch to hemp, but [unfortunately] it is still illegal to grow in the U.S.” He admits that laws are changing rapidly, and remains hopeful that the company will likely switch to an American supplier if such textiles became available. In the meantime, the company remains committed to providing eco-friendly products to customers all around the world.
The use of more agriculturally based materials to clothe, wash and feed people is essential, said Bill. “Oil is overused in non-transportation areas like [the production and distribution of] plastic bags and nylon type fabrics,” he adds, “Plastic microbeads in these items are creating environmental degradation in our oceans and killing sea life. Laundering nylon clothing sends these microbeads into the sewage systems and eventually they end up in our oceans.”
“[I.O.N.] strives to make products for consumers, which have the least impact on the planet. Everybody wears clothing and must make decisions about what they wear,” he said.
“We offer the alternative to non-natural fibers, […and products made] overseas, which benefits large corporations sometimes with dire results for the workers.” Bill asked, “Is this worth it just to have cheap items of clothing in North America?,” citing a factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 people in 2013.
Though the i.O.N. team wants to avoid being too “preachy,” as Bill described, they aim to raise awareness “so that in the long term, what we do becomes the norm and not the alternative.”
For more information about i.O.N. or to shop, visit:
HempAndCompany.com or Facebook.com/HempAndCo
*A copy of this interview originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of the Emerald Magazine and has since been updated.