With the legalization of recreational marijuana coming this summer, this year will be a big one for pot. Even the fashion world is feeling the effects—or at least it did at Toronto’s first cannabis-inspired fashion show, Tweed: Fabric of Creativity.
To the tune of Cardi B’s Bartier Cardi, 18 Canadian designers sent a total of 36 designs down the runway at Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOM*). Ensembles by Ryerson fashion grads Tristan Licud, Joseph Tassoni, Shelli Oh, Kristian Nielson and Farley Chatto, a contract lecturer with Ryerson’s fashion program, were among those featured in the collaborative show.
The garments presented, however, were nothing like the bulk of cannabis-inspired apparel on the market today that tend to be fashioned with images of cannabis leaves, smoke and pro-pot messaging. Rather, these clothes had just one thing in common: the tweed-hemp fabric they were made from.
Designers were asked to incorporate tweed, a woolen fabric with a rich history in menswear, into their designs for Tweed, the Canadian cannabis producer behind the collaborative show. The resulting looks ranged as much in inspiration as they did in design: Chatto put a war-era military biker spin on the classic three-piece suit, while Oh refashioned Sherlock Holmes-inspired overcoats with glen plaid.
Amy Wasserman, Tweed’s marketing director, said that the similarities between the cannabis and fashion industries made the collaboration a no-brainer. “Cannabis is more than just a plant and it has the ability to move things forward. I think that in many ways fashion is the same way.” Both industries harness the power to bring people together and build community.
From hosting annual summer festivals on the front lawn of their facility to implementing an artist residence program, Tweed: Fabric of Creativity is the company’s latest creative initiative aiming to increase engagement, education and change the dialogue around cannabis.
“I don’t know if necessarily showing that (cannabis is) a stylish thing is gonna change anything,” said Oh. “I’m hoping that it at least opens up a conversation.”
According to Wasserman, whose role at Tweed lends the opportunity to speak with members across different communities, the general attitude towards cannabis in Canada is “relatively positive.” But there’s still a strong stigma.
“The stigma of pot is always somebody that you know lives in their mother’s basement, doesn’t have a job,” said Toronto-based menswear blogger Daniel Ocean.
In 2015, nearly five million Canadians used pot according to Statistics Canada. That’s almost 15 per cent of the nation’s population.
Contrary to stereotypes, Ocean says today’s pot users include successful individuals who aren’t afraid to make their recreational consumption known. He notes a friend, a business-type, who visits dispensaries in a suit.
Over the course of TOM* and its sister event, Toronto Women’s Fashion Week, this season’s showgoers could stop by Tweed’s informational exhibit to pick up cannabis-infused goodies like oils and medical cannabis journals—or to simply learn more about cannabis.
Tweed: Fabric of Creativity was Ocean’s first real cannabis and clothing fusion experience, but the relationship between the two dates back to over 10,000 years ago, according to the Columbia History of the World, a lecture series presented by Columbia University.
Hemp is the name of the fabric made from the cannabis sativa plant, one of the earliest plants cultivated by man. In Canada, licensed farmers have been growing and selling commercial hemp since the late ‘90s. Yet, despite its strength and eco-friendly properties, hemp hasn’t been received as the most fashionable of fabrics by the fashion industry.
“Hemp has always been on the radar, but always a bit of like a hippie-dippie fabric,” says Chatto.
With initiatives like Tweed: Fabric of Creativity in the mix, Chatto says we’ll soon see a shift in attitudes toward the textile—and designers and manufacturers will at some point make hemp clothing available to the wider public.
Even if cannabis is legalized this year, Canada has a long way to go in re-shaping the stereotypes and stigmas around it for medicinal, recreational and commercial uses.
But actions that aim to educate and start conversations, like Tweed’s cannabis-inspired fashion show, are what Wasserman calls “baby steps” in the grand scheme of things.