Who Are We?
Couleur Chanvre above all represents the passion for natural textiles, their elegance and their irreplaceable qualities. It also represents the obsession with preserving their beauty and their benefits, by removing all the toxic products that are pervasive in the textile industry and that poison us and pollute our planet, from the production circuit.
Finally, it represents the desire to revive and pass on this irreplaceable textile expertise that has been admired for centuries but that has been sacrificed at the altar of globalisation over the last 30 years.
Thierry Bonhomme, President de Couleur Chanvre
Born in Lorraine, a centre for industry, he grew up amid the leaders of the French manufacturing industry, which resonated throughout the whole world, processing wood, textile, metal, crystal or agricultural products. His career début at the heart of the French firm Cristal-Daum left its mark on him, by giving him a taste for beauty and for quality: “I have a poignant memory of the master glassmakers blowing glasses and carafes in the heat of the oven and I have a profound admiration for all schools of excellence like this. Lorraine was the home of a successful marriage between art, science and industry, which is distinguished in particular by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras, but also the post-war period.”
Years passed and Thierry has had an eclectic career, while witnessing, powerless and sad, the de-industrialisation of France for more than 30 years. He was waiting for the opportunity to be able to restore these unique crafts.
Couleur Chanvre presented that opportunity. Textile manufacture is a highly skilled trade, requiring a very qualified workforce, but it is also a trade of passion.
Since then, Thierry set the following course of action:
- To work with the best fibres and to prioritise the use of fibres wherever possible.
- To establish a manufacturing process that is perfectly healthy for clients and respects the planet.
- To create products which really are Made in France.
- To establish a positive relationship with clients.
“To modestly contribute to making the world softer, that’s really the objective of this course of action that has never left me and that I explained in my 2019 vision.“
Today, there’s still a long way to go, but this course of action and this determination have not budged an inch.
This is what we have already achieved
1 - Reviving hemp textiles
Since 2007, Couleur Chanvre has devoted itself to reviving hemp fibre textiles. Discovered around 9000 years ago and used in textiles for about 3000 years, hemp almost disappeared in the 1930s and 1940s. This was particular due to the alliance between synthetic and cotton textiles. However, this wonderful plant grows everywhere without needing any fertilisers or pesticides and the fibres obtain have exceptional properties. But this is the situation: the expertise, tools and even knowledge of this plant disappeared a long time ago. If hemp is talked about a lot today, it’s mostly about its applications as a foodstuff or a building or pharmaceutical material. But for textiles, it’s very hard to implement. We have met people who are passionate about hemp, convinced farmers and cooperatives to start researching hemp textiles and to start some tests and experimental cultures in order to revive a true French hemp textile sector.
The “Organic Linen and Hemp” Association, of which we are a member, was created in 2013 to speed up this progress and it’s happening now. But it needs to be understood that reviving a sector like this is a very long and complex process that must be formed of multiple levels; this means identifying the varieties of hemp that are best adapted to textiles and optimising techniques agricultural techniques: cultivation, harvesting, retting and defibration. The industrial textile steps themselves must be adapted to the fibre’s characteristics, whether that is spinning, weaving, tailoring or finishing.
Today, the Chinese are much more advanced than us and produce high quality raw fibres in droves.
But we think it is essential that France and Europe develop this production to ensure our independence and resolutely dedicate ourselves to the development of a local and long-lasting economy. This is what we are working on every day.
2 -Preserving a flax processing sector
Our desire is absolutely the same for flax, a wonderful natural fibre, as well as an eco-friendly plant. Did you know that France is the Number One producer of flax fibres in the world, but that 95% of these fibres leave for China in a raw state to be processed into household linen or clothes that will then be marketed throughout the world as “French linen”? The flax processing textile sector has almost disappeared from our countryside; spinning no longer exists and weavers and tailors closed one after another. In this sense, we are like a small island, as our weaving, tailoring and finishing is all done in France.
3 - Inventing a process that excludes all toxic, irritant and allergenic products and endocrine disruptors.
A long time ago, we highlighted something completely absurd which exists to this day. Consumers are rightly demanding clean, “organic” fibres, if this appellation really covers textile materials. But the textile industry is one of the sectors that uses the largest number of toxic products that present a danger to our health and the planet, whether that means chemical components of fabrics, dyes or primers. The fibres called organic are pumped full of toxic products throughout their processing, dyeing and finishing. It’s a bit like if you seasoned a delicious organic tomato with a sauce with a petrol base...
In the face of this oddity, we set ourselves the objective of developing a dyeing and finishing process that excludes all these dangerous products. We invested a lot and it took several years for us to overcome this challenge, but we did it. Our process is unique and we are proud to produce perfectly clean fabrics.
Our current tasks1 - Adapting our process to printing
This unique process of dyeing and finishing is only applicable to solid colours at the moment. Yet prints are important to a textile and decoration collection and this is the new challenge that we have set ourselves. We have already overcome certain hurdles and we will probably be able to offer you prints that were also made without toxic products soon.
2 - Continuing to research hemp textiles
Hemp is a material which still needs to be tamed. Even though its irregular and somewhat “rustic” character is also part of its charm, its yarn is nonetheless extremely expensive when compared to flax or organic cotton.
We are continuing our work and contributing to different research projects - in particular looking at Europe as a whole - in order to streamline the production of hemp fibres, to optimise the quality and regularity of the fibres and to adapt the textile techniques to this rebellious fibre.
The aim is to increase the production of hemp fibres and to make hemp yarn and fabrics more affordable.
3 - Improving consumer information
Every day we see the lack and shortcomings of the information given to the consumer about textiles. Organic fabric, “Made in France”, labels that are often fake and are just commercial instruments - all of these notions have becoming meaningless, which is particularly involved in the “greenwashing” of today. Companies like ours are penalised, because it is very difficult for them to put forward their differences and their ethics. Consumer suspicion is increasing in a completely legitimate way, because of the lies constructed in the name of marketing.
In this context, we believe it is important to contribute to improving this information. This is why we are preparing a small textile guide which will explain the different materials, their advantages and disadvantages, the different treatments they undergo and which will also allow the consumer to decode the often opaque information on labels and websites. This guide will be finalised in 2019 and you will be able to download it for free on our website.
This is our action plan for the coming months. Our company is small, but we are determined to contribute to creating a better world. We often like to remind ourselves of this wise phrase: “in order to move a mountain, you have to start by removing the little stones”.