006 – Ellie Skeele and Pierre Schmitt – Loving Himalayan Nettle

Himalayan nettle fibers…

Ellie Skeele (Founder and President of Himalayan Wild Fibers) and Pierre Schmitt (President, Philea Textiles) join hosts Rob Sanchez, Samanta Cortes and Stephanie Benedetto on location at Premiere Vision 2016 in New York.

Deadly cotton, Hemp for Victory, and the beauty of nettle

Skeele and Schmitt discuss textiles and how materials make a difference, how behind fashion is material, how we have lost contact with material, and why cotton is a deadly material with Schmitt saying 5-10,000 liters of water are used per pair of jeans, and with 30-50% of pesticides used just for cotton plantations worldwide. The way most of the textile culture has been lost, “Hemp for Victory”, how hemp was a natural local plant excellent for the environment, and why everyone should care about natural fibers that have no impact on environment.

How Himalayan nettle doesn’t need any water, or care with fertilizer, and how it is excellent for the body. Looking at how the whole textile industry was killed by cotton, which doesn’t grow in Europe, and how so many use cotton without thinking about the impact on the environment. Rediscovering beauty of nettle, how Himalayan nettle is very closely related to common nettle, how it evolved at altitude and grows only in forests with tree cover, is over 3 meters tall and perfectly sustainable with very few inputs. Examining that the fiber is the longest known to man to date, hollow, resilient and springy with a hollow core, comparable to cotton, grows in harsh climate, goes through changes in temp and rainfall to grow, resulting a very strong fiber.

Harvesting challenges, environmental impact, and teaching people to care

Himalayan Wild Fibers exists to commercialize the fiber and help farmers who live a subsistence farming life in the Himalayas. The nettle gives designers a story using this fiber. It is still a very new textile to use, quite pleasant to wear and very breathable. Considering that chemical processes kills cotton, looking for mill partners who can process fibers so manufacturers can use the fiber. Very hard to harvest given the very manual, and labor-intensive process. Not easy to scale, scaling up carefully to balance purchase s and demand with what villagers are able to do while not disturbing their lifestyle. Caution to not overharvest, yet beneficial to harvest as it creates net positive environmental impact, according to forestry pros. Only 5% of growing crop is harvested at this time. Mixing nettle with wool, and hopes that people will start planting nettle again. A small store has contact with consumers, investigating what people tell about wearing the nettle. How nettle could be good for allergies. Sharp stingers and how silicone offers some fire retardant qualities, Himalayan nettle has a lot of remarkable properties, and how Skeele and Schmitt got involved with the fiber.

A round of “Remnants” personal questions covers Les Miserables, a complicated look at developing nations, passion and emotion, growing up on a farm, teaching people to care, and the nightmare that connects clothing and food.

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