I-tal Collective is a contemporary artists collective promoting creativity and cultural exchange through muralists and sustainable practices. The team is pre-launching a unique collection of Hemp made products through a Kickstarter campaign which has 7 days left. We connected with one of I-tal’s founders, Vincente, to learn more about the campaign and the Collective itself.
KTV: How did I-tal Collective come into being?
VINCENTE: ITAL came to life after working for more than a decade in the apparel industry. I realized that traditional fibers and common clothing processes are far from sustainable. I was able to see some traditional cotton fields and how much pesticides they throw over them. Also there were some communities living behind the fields. This was the first step when I decided to start doing something different and use new sources for fiber.
I had Hemp fiber in mind but didn’t know so much about it. This is when I started looking and reading about Hemp fiber. I travelled to China where they have been using it for thousands of years and I realized it was a key piece in my new project. I met the correct people and ended up finding some great quality organic Hemp manufacturers. In the middle of the Hemp research I found some old Chinese art representations made over hemp canvas. This opened my mind and let me think about Art as a great language and eye keeper to help me with this new mission of promoting hemp made products.
That was how this idea came up and I started this collective to promote creativity and art collaborations into sustainable hemp-made products.
KTV: How does growing hemp compare to growing more traditional fibers in terms of resource usage?
VINCENTE: Hemp is a great crop and there is a whole world of difference with traditional fibers like cotton. Cotton requires a lot more land compared to hemp, with hemp crops yielding a little bit more than double the textile fiber per ton. Talking about water, cotton needs 50% more water than hemp crops on the same amount of acres. Then if you add fiber processing into the equation, Cotton needs 4x times more water than hemp.
Hemp can be grown organically with no use of pesticides very easy, it is naturally resistant to most of pests and it grows very dense and tall, helping to keep out most of the weeds.
Also another good thing about hemp is that it is a soil recovering plant, that means you can replace some monoculture crops that have been killing the soil for years with hemp fields. This will help to recover the soil and bring more earth-friendly fibers to the market.
If you compare this with traditional polyester and other synthetic, non-renewable fabrics, they come from oil and the amount of energy required to extract oil is way more than what you need to harvest hemp.
KTV: Why do the traditions of mural making feature so heavily in your products?
VINCENTE: When we started collaborating with artists we were searching to reach and communicate with more people in a cooler way. Also, art is another form of “pure expression,” which reflects how our products are made with natural and clean fibers. All these attributes are going directly into each of our products, and we think that collaborations can be stronger and bring art into people’s life. We believe that art is a very powerful tool able to transform public spaces and communities. Also, most of our artist are mural-makers so this was an easy way to start our collaborations and help to bring some new and colorful energy to local towns.
As this is a global message searching to promote hemp and sustainable products everywhere, we are collaborating with artists from around the world. We found that including mural-making in our projects was a way to also empower cultural exchange. This was when we decided to start promoting mural projects with foreign artists in local communities. Our first project was made in Oceanside, CA and it end up doing great! We painted a big mural in a classic Oceanside corner, bringing a Jerusalem, Israel artist. The community feedback was great! They loved to see some new art and different style of what they were used to. Also people during the mural process was able to talk with the artist and learn more about what we are doing.
KTV: Where are your products manufactured and why did you choose those locations?
VINCENTE: Our products are manufactured in North East China. Our factory in China is a completely different concept to what most people think about China.
It’s a sustainable and solar energy factory that is part of the FAIR WEAR FOUNDATION and works only with organic certified fibers. Employees work in a very good condition, having access to personal orchards in site, transportation and even nap time during the shifts. We are very focused on making a high quality product made to last longer with a sustainable production.
Why China? Because they have been working with hemp for thousand of years and they never banned it (like the USA and most of the world). They have a very good knowledge on how to treat the fiber and reach the best quality.
We are part of all the processes and we have a very good quality control team that makes sure everything is done in the correct way. We are very happy with the results of making a product we can be proud off.
KTV: What type of message do you guys want to convey through your products?
VINCENTE: Our main message is that we as a society need to start worrying more about what we wear everyday. What is made from our clothing and where I put my vote when buying a new product. What kind of companies we want to support! The ones that are destroying our environment or the ones that are trying not to be harmful? Most of the times we search for something cheap without caring the footprint of that product.
This new generation is able to make a change and we need to offer them what they’re looking for but made in good and ethical way. We are focused on catching their attention with cool and fun sustainable products designed by contemporary artists.
We want to let everyone know that good quality and cool products can be made from sustainable materials. Hemp is not just a hippy thing, it’s the fiber of the future!
KTV: On your kickstarter page you wrote that “Modern industrial production has pushed away humans from manufacturing and products have lost an important link to craftsmanship.” Can you elaborate on this point?
VINCENTE: This point makes reference to the fact that the majority of industrial production is always searching for the cheapest ways of making products. Trying to discard manpower as much as possible to pay fewer salaries and make faster production including more machines in the process.
In the old days when products were made in smaller runs and probably a couple blocks away from home, there was a greater connection between consumers and the people behind products. You were able to know how was this product created and by who. Is important to keep alive that care and love behind each product.
Our main idea as a company is to go back to our roots. Bring back that relation with people behind each product. We think that working with artists brings a special connection between the ones that are buying the product and who is behind it. There is more to learn about each product and why it was made that way. Each product comes with information about who designed it, as well as links and info to follow the creators and keep posted about their work.
Artists always care about the quality and results on each of the pieces they make. That’s very similar to what we are doing and the way that we create our products. When we work with artists we don’t push them with a commercial influence. It’s just their own vision about a concept. These artworks are printed with eco-friendly inks into sustainable fibers and manufactured by people who care about what they are doing. We put a lot of attention on every detail behind each product.
KTV: What other projects are in the pipeline for you guys?
VINCENTE: Our main project ahead is to continue with the mural-making projects. We have at least 3-5 new locations and artists we are going to start working with.
All of them are going to be different countries/cultures artists that will come here to the states and paint in different locations. We want to keep bringing more artists and continue this cultural exchange to promote sustainable and hemp made production.
We also are developing some great fabric compositions with HEMP and RECYCLED POLYESTER from plastic bottles. This will be part of the materials used for the new products on collaborations on the new collaborations. We are working on some new high performance outdoor products made with these fabrics to bring unique and technique products into the outdoor market.
More to come, stay tuned!!