For some, the word "hemp" conjures up images of burning joints or bongs filled with white smoke.
Brian Kupiec is looking to change that perception with a new denim jeans brand that harnesses what he believes are the endless opportunities of hemp fiber. Called Magu Studios,
Kupiec and his partners Val Garkov and Garrett Durica started the company in Cleveland two years ago.
After months of preparation, the trio is readying its first run of Japanese Raw Hemp Denim Jeans. The name delivers what it promises, interweaving industrial hemp with cotton for extra durability and bacteria resistance. Hemp carries environmentally-friendly properties as well, needing half as much land for growth as cotton. The leafy plant requires little to no pesticides and needs less water
per growing season than "the fabric of our lives."
"We're highlighting sustainability and want to use our brand as inspiration for others to utilize hemp in their clothing," Kupiec says. "Industry trends are leaning toward more sustainable fabrics and ethical consumerism."
Magu Studios' hemp is cultivated in China, then shipped to Okyama, Japan, a city known in fashion circles as a source for high-quality denim
. Kupiec, 22, a Kent State University double major in fashion and business marketing, says he and his partners saw a hemp-sized hole in the market and decided to fill it. His company name derives from the Goddess Magu, also known as the Hemp Maiden
Kupiec and other supporters of the oft-misunderstood fiber
point to the plant's myriad industrial applications, from medicine to building materials. Though hemp can't be used as a narcotic, the startup owner has fielded numerous queries about his company's relation to cannabis.
"People automatically ask us if our jeans are made of marijuana," says Kupiec. "Hemp gets grouped in with weed, but they should be viewed as two separate things."
Despite the stigma, Kupiec has gotten mostly positive responses to the business model, a trend he expects to continue in the next month when Magu Studios opens a pop-up shop in either Gordon Square
or Ohio City
Wherever it lands, the shop will carry the company's first 100 pairs of slim jeans in standard deep indigo. Different colors and fades will be available next year. By that time, Kupiec would like to be a budding voice for fashionable, sustainable garments.
"Creativity and innovation are what drives us as a business," he says. "We want others to have that same innovation and not be afraid to offer sustainability along with quality."