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Hemp Couture

Designer Rob Jungmann Brings His Earth-Friendly Fabric to S.B.


If you’re as eco-conscious as you are style-savvy, lately you may have found yourself wondering: Whatever happened to hemp? It was like, the fabric of the future, man : 20 years ago. The hemp crop was going to save the world. Then cotton went organic, bamboo came on the scene, and hemp took a backseat. But recent Santa Barbara transplant Rob Jungmann is ready to take back the wheel, and with more than 15 years of experience in the world of hemp attire, he knows wherefrom he speaks.

For Jungmann, it all started back in 1993’s grunge-happy Seattle, when he decided to design an outdoor line of hemp clothing with the goal of getting it carried by none other than the big daddy superstore of adventure gear itself, REI. He and his partners were told their best shot would be to hit up the Outdoor Retailer trade show. They did-after weeks spent traveling in an RV-and they arrived at the show to face their moment of truth unshowered, barefoot, and shirtless. (No dice, quoth Spicoli.)

We did great,” Jungmann said, with a pause for dramatic effect, “in Japan.”

He’s not kidding though. That company, Manastash-which means new beginning-became huge. That first meeting begot a sample order for 2,000 pieces; six months later, they had a $200,000 order. Six months after that, another one, this time for $500,000. Production was set up in China, and Jungmann spent several years traveling the Japanese extreme sport circuit, bouncing from town to town, skiing, mountain biking, base jumping-basically sponsoring whatever outdoor activity he came across, and, in 2002, he headed to Costa Rica, in a sort of pseudo-retirement. It had been a tough life-he was tired.

Then, two years ago, he decided to get back on the horse, and bring production to the U.S. under the name Jungmaven-Jung is from his own last name; maven comes from Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point; together, they mean Young Trendsetter. And around this time last year, Jungmann and his girlfriend decided to make Santa Barbara their home, and set up shop in L.A. Like Manastash, Jungmaven’s shirts are 100 percent hemp, and Jungmaven is 100 percent local, which keeps its environmental footprint stylishly petite.

Rob is still preaching the gospel of hemp. After all, the hemp plant can be used for wood, fuel, plastic, and paper, and, because the hemp plant is naturally resistant to insects and weeds, growers don’t need to rely on pesticides. In its garment application, hemp is more UV protectant than cotton, requires about 1/20th as much water to grow and process than does cotton, and is up to four times stronger than cotton. Also, as opposed to cotton, hemp is anti-microbial, non-static, and it doesn’t break down. All of which is important, of course, but those concerned with the wearing of Jungmaven shirts will be pleased to know they are surprisingly soft and supple on the bod, the graphics delightfully kick-ass to the eye.

Locally, you can find Jungmaven at both Hempwise locations (927 State St. or 971 Embarcadero del Mar, Ste. B, I.V.), or check out their booth this Sunday, April 19, at the Earth Day Festival at Alameda Park. Because hemp and the Earth go way, way back, Jungmaven is offering a smokin’ deal this week: Stop in Hempwise or by the booth to score your own hemp tee for $20.

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