Scarves aren’t exactly part of our daily dressing vocabulary. I have seen women wear them to accessorise corporate attire to good effect, but apart from that, I can only really picture it as an uncle-staple at winter weddings, a.k.a. the muffler.
Okay, you may see me sporting one too, but they’re usually thick and warm. What I hadn’t considered so far is the possibility of wearing a lighter scarf, that serves as a perfectly good accessory for men and women alike, and not necessarily just as a cold-shield.
So when I saw B Label (Bombay Hemp Company or Boheco’s fashion brand) doing scarves made of hemp, I was quite excited to give them a go.
B Label’s scarves have a few cool things going for them. First, they’re made of hemp. While the ones I got were 60% hemp and 40% lambswool, they also have 100% hemp options.
Second, the place they come from is a story in itself. The scarves are handmade by a collective of women weavers in Uttarakhand that were brought together after their families went through tragic circumstances in the aftermath of the 2013 Kedarnath floods.
To add to that, the colours and patterns of scarves are sober, conservative and fairly unisex. And they aren’t very thick, making them a good candidate for summer accessories too. This, of course, will be put to test.
The houndstooth patterned black and white scarf (Retro Revive) is versatile as hell, has got me a lot of compliments, and can be styled in many different ways. I have actually worn it with cardigans, jackets and suits alike.
- White and black
- Houndstooth weave
- 60% hemp, 40% lambswool
Rosewood twill (Prototype)
- Red, white and black
- Twill leave
- 60% hemp, 40% lambswool
- B Label’s final production scarf in this colourway has a herringbone weave and is called Rosewood Herringbone
The handloom collection currently has 12 styles and designs, with the material mix going from 60% to 100% hemp, blended with either lambswool, oak silk or organic cotton. The scarves are unisex, generally, subject to your personal tastes and preferences. The colours predominantly available are beige, grey, cream and purple, while weaves are twill, houndstooth, herringbone and chashm-e-bulbul. I like that they are long (36 cm by 190 cm), which allows flexibility in knotting and styling.
Hemp sustainability recap
I wrote earlier about hemp being the new miracle crop. To quickly summarise, hemp has a far lower ecological footprint than cotton, doesn’t consume pesticides and has thousands of uses, making it extremely versatile and valuable. It is hypo-allergenic and more UV-resistant than cotton. Hemp is also stronger and lasts longer. Hemp is basically a total boss when it comes to sustainability Read the detailed story.
The full package
The B Label handloom scarf comes in a cardboard sleeve that tells the story of how the makers of these accessories – the Mandakini Women Weavers of Uttarakhand – came to be. Packaging is simple and straightforward, and the natural colour palette vibes well with the sustainability factor of the materials they use. The scarf wrapped around paper board shows attention to detail and respect for the product and message. It is a welcome break from loose articles tossed into plastic delivery bags we’ve got used to in the era of online shopping.
First impressions about Boheco’s hemp accessories
The first thing apparent is how unmistakably handwoven and handmade the scarves feel because of the charming individual variations that are found — little knots, minor differences in weave length at some places, edges of the fabric. They all give it real character that won’t come by on machine made goods, no matter how hard you try.
To the touch, the fabric isn’t pashmina soft, but that is to expected as it isn’t even half wool. You can feel a bit of texture if you run your fingers over it, but it isn’t rough.
During the course of reviewing other hemp products from B Label, I found that hemp doesn’t feel too different or alien as a fabric. So we ought to be less apprehensive about things made from it, I feel.
I felt an immediate connection with the houndstooth weave on Retro Revive, as the pattern is a personal favourite, found elsewhere in my wardrobe too.
The heroes behind these creations: Mandakini Women Weavers in Uttarakhand
The ‘Mandakini Women Weavers’ is an effort to connect and empower women who lost family, property and livelihood to the Kedarnath floods in 2013, started by rural development advocate Mukti Datta, who has successfully helped create such self-sustaining models in other areas of the country as well.
The women at Mandakini were taught embroidery, weaving and spinning to support their families by creating lovely handmade clothes and accessories, such as these B Label handlooms.
‘Who Made My Clothes’ and bringing you closer to the origin of what you buy is definitely trending these days and rightfully so. It is an important part of the slow fashion philosophy and it is good to see it honoured by B Label in this manner.
This level of thoughtfulness is one of the reasons why indie brands in India are killing it nowadays.
Living with B Label Hemp Handloom Scarves
I wore the houndstooth-patterned Retro Revive extensively through the winter, pairing and accessorising it with different styles and outfits. It complements, both, casual and formal attire really well, and adds a nice bit of zing to muted colours that dominate my winter wardrobe. The houndstooth pattern itself is a design classic that leaves little room for going wrong. I find the scarf quite smart, and it got a number of compliments too. One amusing remark I did hear was someone saying this was reminiscent of what Salman Khan wore in Tiger Zinda Hai. I haven’t watched the movie and am still wondering if it’s a compliment!
Because of the inherent nature of hemp fabric, feel of the scarf against the skin expectedly isn’t super-soft, but I didn’t quite mind it. It felt unobtrusive enough a little while after wearing it. Though owing to the colours and weave pattern, its versatility is actually the real winner.
Styling and accessorising different clothing with the houndstooth scarf
Back to where we started, it seems like we don’t wear scarves enough. Thankfully, I was able to pair the houndstooth scarf with various outfits in contrasting settings, to find a lot of different ways of wearing it. Four such instances you can see in the review are:
- Parisian knot with a light sweater
- Drape with a blazer
- Reverse drape with a t-shirt
- Once round with a jacket
If the material is light, scarves can be worn in spring and fall too, paired with lighter clothing, as seen below with a t-shirt. I reckon the Cream Beam, which is a hemp-organic cotton blend, will be even better suited for months that aren’t too cold.
Scarves in the B Label Handloom line are priced between ₹2390 and ₹2790, varying with the material mix. Retro Revive is ₹2390.
The entire B Label Handloom collection can be viewed and purchased online from their website blabel.in.
It goes without saying that B Label Handlooms are priced high as far as scarves go. What must be taken into account, though, is the higher cost of hemp and how this is a handloom made by women weavers whose families were struck by tragedy.
It is a general complaint that sustainable fashion isn’t accessible to many, in price terms. Check out the video below about the Mandakini Women Weavers to put some of it in perspective.
Given that many buyers are attracted to the social dimension of such a purchase, it will surely be good to know how much of the proceeds really go to the craftspeople and makers. This is the kind of transparency socially-conscious brands should aim for as the next step in the sustainable and ethical fashion movement.
Another hemp product is great news in the process of making this sustainable material more mainstream. These multi-season scarves are versatile and good looking, with classic, conservative designs.
Who’s it for: Anyone supporting the cause of small makers, mindful of the power of voting with one’s wallet
What’s different: The material — This is scarf made of cannabis!
Best thing about it: The way sustainability meets social good
One thing I’d change: Finishing on the edges
How did you hear about BOHECO and B Label? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this story interesting or useful, please spread the indie brand goodness by sharing it!
Location courtesy for photographs: Möbel Grace, Delhi