Using 100% French fabric for trainers? The Mesclat collection
UBAC has launched a capsule of 2 trainers made from Mesclat, a 100% French, 100% natural, 0-dye fabric. Produced by Virgocoop, a citizens' cooperative in Occitanie, it is made from hemp and wool. It helps to encourage the revival of a declining hemp textile industry and to save sheared wool destined to be thrown away.
Mesclat, the achievement of a hemp and wool fabric that is saving the Occitan textile industry.
The mesclat (meaning "mixture" in Occitan), which makes up the new Ubac trainer collection, is a response to the need to reclaim wool and hemp, but also to relocate textile expertise in France. It is made from exactly 50% wool and 50% hemp.
Saving wool from destruction
After years of being destroyed for lack of textile outlets, Virgocoop collects wool from farmers in Lozère.
This provides additional income for producers, and adds value to a highly valuable material: natural, thermo-regulating, insulating and anti-bacterial.
Restoring hemp to its former glory
Hemp grows without pesticides or irrigation, and cleans soils. With its farmer partners, Virgocoop produces textile hemp, which is then processed into short fibres. At the moment, the cooperative is not yet able to spin 100% hemp without relocating production.
There are several ways of spinning hemp, but the know-how of the hemp textile industry, which was very present in France until the middle of the 20th century, has almost disappeared.
Adapting to the difficult context of the Occitan textile industry
By using short-fibre hemp mixed with wool, it is possible to carry out all the processing stages in carded spinning mills, traditional industries of the Occitan region.
The result is a fabric that is 100% French and Occitan, 100% natural and 0 dyes, which enhances the value of an entire local and sustainable industry.
Virgocoop is a citizens' cooperative set up in 2018 with the aim of revitalising the French textile industry, mainly in the Occitanie region. Ubac has been a member for several years, and you too can become a member to support local, sustainable and responsible textile industries!
The origins of Virgocoop
The project stems from a shared desire with several friends to relaunch hemp production in Lot, as a driving force behind the ecological transition. The idea emerged in 2015, and knowledge of the sector led Virgocoop to focus on textiles from 2016 / 2017, with the first cultivation trials in 2018. The cooperative was created in 2018, and now produces over 200 hectares of hemp with its farming partners.
Virgocoop chose hemp because it grows relatively easily in most French regions. It is an excellent rotation crop and can be grown without any additional difficulties in organic farming. It also stores large quantities of carbon.
By relocating the crop, farmers will have a new market opportunity while extending their rotations and improving their agro-ecological practices.
Adding wool to hemp enables this mixture to be spun on carded spinning mills, historically widespread in the south of France, several of which still exist. What's more, Occitanie is a wool-growing region, with the most abundant herd of Lacaune ewe (which gives milk to Roquefort cheese). For over 2 years, Virgocoop, in partnership with Atelier Tuffery and a team of shearers, has been organising the collection of this wool in Lozère.
A promising project
According to Mathieu, Virgocoop's president :
“More and more consumers want to know where the clothes they wear come from and how they are made. Awareness of the impact of textiles on the planet and on people means that demand for local, ecological and ethically produced fabrics is on the rise - and thankfully so!
As for hemp, it has the wind in its sails and, given the qualities of this plant, we believe that this is not just a passing fad. Our partners trust us, and hemp is clearly one of the raw materials of interest to the textile and construction industries. It's up to us to provide the necessary quality!”
In just a few years, Virgocoop has grown from 3 to 200 hectares of hemp production, while at the same time taking over a weaving workshop that was about to close down. Thanks to the support of all its members and partners, Virgocoop is now able to invest in the establishment of a long-term supply chain, which will require several more years of work to become truly solid.
Ambitions for the future of French textiles
Virgocoop explains the 3 main challenges we face in helping to change the world of textiles:
- Massify the community of member-policyholders to influence textile production and consumption.
- Building a strong ecosystem of producers and processors, with a particular focus on hemp and wool.
- Develop fabric production capacity by modernising and expanding the weaving workshop.
In short, to solidify the current model so that it is viable in the long term. To relocate more stages of textile fibre processing, Virgocoop is planning additional investment, as well as training in new areas.
The mesclat capsule
Mesclat is used on our two new models: AXOLO and VOLKAN. This fabric combines the virtues of hemp and wool to create thermo-regulating products that keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. Hemp and wool are also highly resistant and anti-bacterial, helping to prevent unpleasant odours. Natural to the core, mesclat is not dyed, avoiding the use of water and chemicals.