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Be careful, this store is likely to clash with fast fashion
Be careful, this store is likely to clash with fast fashion
Be careful, this store is likely to clash with fast fashion

Meeting of the organic linen and hemp textile sectors: trip to Normandy

June 15, the sun is out, we leave Paris to reach a little corner of greenery that is dear to us: Normandy. This is where Émilie grew up; there are...

June 15, the sun is out, we leave Paris to reach a little corner of greenery that is dear to us: Normandy. This is where Émilie grew up; there are many beautiful and sweet memories. If you tell him about Riva Bella, you already have it in your pocket!

Three hours of driving, traffic jams, blue skies, France Culture, chatter and snacking on BN later, we arrived at the Franck Durocher Farm in Creully-sur-Seulles, northwest of Caen.

It is there that the 7th meeting of the organic linen and hemp textile sectors is held, organized by the Organic Linen and Hemp Association. More than 250 guests gathered around the same passion for these ancestral fibers grown in France.

We meet farmers, dyers, spinners, knitters, combers, dyers, traders, brands, project leaders, manufacturers, the IFTH (French Textile Clothing Institute), institutions and us too !

The day is structured in 3 phases: conferences, visits to flax and hemp fields and meetings.

Let's start with the conferences, okay?
We are on a farm, so it is normal for the conference to be held in a shed, which, depending on the season, houses machines, bales of linen, and other agricultural necessities.

Conference No. 1:
State of play: production and market of organic flax

We know it, and we assure you enough: France is the world's leading producer of linen (70 to 75% of world production).

The biggest players in the sector in the world are therefore gathered this morning. And a sector only holds if all the links are strong and united. This day will have shown us that solidarity, conviction, passion are the key words.

There are currently 31,500 hectares of flax in Normandy.

The Lin et Hemp Bio association supports farmers from conventional flax to organic flax. Today, less than 1% of flax is organic, or 350 hectares. It should be noted that 700 hectares are currently under conversion.

When we switch from conventional flax to organic flax, we see a drop in yield of 15 to 30% (when it is 50% for cereals, for example). When we go organic, in fact, the committed farmer takes more risks.

It takes 100 days for flax to grow. It is generally sown on April 1 to be harvested in early July.

Sowing seems easy, but for flax it's real precision work: how deep should you put the seeds? What spacing between each seed? How is the land? These variables adjust over time. As Marion Lemaire of the brand says Splice : “ It’s not us who determine the next clothing collections we release, it’s time that will determine it .”

In 2020, with the very hot weather, the harvest was poor in quantity and quality and unfortunately did not respond well to market demands. Yes, linen is like wine: there are good years and very difficult years.


Conference No. 2: Textile hemp fiber: results, tests and transformation of the fiber.

France is today the leading producer of hemp in Europe. And what do we do with it then? Because we don't see it in our clothes...

It mainly serves as biosourced insulation for our buildings.

In fact, France currently lacks harvesting equipment adapted to the height of this plant, which can reach more than 2m in height! So the industry is scratching its head to adapt existing machines but it is not simple, it is long, tedious and complicated. Things are progressing and the first solutions are arriving slowly to be able to pull out and cut the hemp into 90cm long fibers.

As for retting and scutching, the same problem: too few machines... So we are slowly transposing the know-how from linen to hemp.

As one of the speakers said: “ Today we work hemp with 19th century machines but with 21st century economic constraints…

There was then a debate on the labels. When you want to switch your flax or hemp production to organic, all harvests and other sowing must be organic. In fact, you cannot plant flax or hemp on the same land two years in a row. We must therefore diversify the fields (generally it is in a seven-year cycle) and for the land to be healthy, no more pesticides must be used.

Today flax and hemp are certified with the Organic label, we also talk about the GOTS label but as has been rightly noted: organic flax harvested by the Uyghurs (forced labor center for Muslim minorities in China) is also GOTS certified… We can clearly see the limits of the labels…

Conference n°3:
Relocation of spinning mills.

If we're talking about relocation it's because France has lost all its linen mills, no more know-how, no more machines, que pouic (that's Sylviane's favorite word!)...

Safilin, one of the French players since 1778, was able to keep the spinning know-how alive in France until 2005 and then, curtains. They had no other choice than to set up in Poland to face the ferocity of Asian and South African spinning mills (but Safilin managed to keep linen knitting in France, and that's great. !).

Fifteen years later, hooray, in 2020, the Velcorex group opened a linen spinning mill near Mulhouse, a small step for linen, a big step for our know-how! That's it, the reindustrialization of France in the linen sector begins in a booming market.

With the support of Linportant, Safilin should in turn reopen a spinning mill in Normandy at the end of 2021 - during 2022; and with the support of project leaders like Linfini in Finistère, Brittany should soon open its own spinning mill.

It’s finally the end of sourcing as far away as possible and as cheaply as possible…

We haven't yet told you about all the great projects that will come in the coming months. We still have our hairs on end (teasing to death!). Because yes, innovation also happens by relocating!

Three and a half hours later and lots of information in mind, meal time arrives in the middle of the fields under a blazing sun. A real delight, both in taste and in encounters. We came across a few brands there that we distributed in stores: Marion from the Splice brand, Marc from the Kiplay brand, Lucas from the Ifa Chanvre brand, Catherine from the Schop brand and we got to know some others.

We ended our day with a visit to the organic flax and hemp fields. Fifteen minutes of walking in the shade of trees, charming little castle, butterflies and magnificent views of flax and hemp plants. It was too late to see the flax flowers which close at midday and only bloom when it is cool... But what happiness and delight to admire these noble fields.

We hope that you have enjoyed reading us and thank once again the organic flax and hemp association, which for seven years has been working to revive our know-how. Thank you also to all those involved in linen and hemp.

We also hope that this article will have allowed you to discover the sector a little more, with our words (sometimes a little technical...) and our emotions. Thank you to the linen and hemp professionals for apologizing in advance if everything has not been said in the appropriate jargon! :)

Article written by David

Article written by David.


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