As we continue to explore #EarthMonth, we wanted to highlight one of our favourite entrepreneurs, Shakib Nassiri, the founder of WAMA Underwear. WAMA Underwear prides themselves in designing their products using hemp. In creating their unique hemp fabric, WAMA had a rigorous process that allowed them to be one of the first companies to introduce their audience to hemp made underwear. Check out the interview below with our guest: Shakib Nassiri!
Shakib! Thank you so much for talking to us! Let’s start off with your journey. What inspired you to start WAMA?
I was learning about all of the benefits of hemp clothing when I realized the best application for hemp fabric would be your underwear! We all stink the most and carry the most bacteria down there and with hemp fabric being naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, super breathable and comfortable it seemed like a no brainer. We need to use hemp to protect our privates first before we think about using hemp to protect the rest of our bodies. Start where it counts most!
We can’t argue with that logic. Why WAMA though? What’s behind the name?
I actually came up with this name on my trip to China visiting hemp suppliers. MA in the Chinese language means marijuana or hemp and WA means surprise. So the name pretty much means Surprise Hemp in Chinese. I saw that there were no real market leaders when it came to hemp underwear and I decided to create WAMA Underwear to take that spot. WAMA Underwear is now the leader in Hemp Underwear!
What is the goal behind WAMA? Short term and long term?
The goal right now is simple. To pioneer and innovate the hemp clothing industry with upgrades and releases of new styles and colors of hemp underwear while increasing awareness of the benefits of hemp clothing.
Name 3 things you think fashion entrepreneurs need to focus on for success.
As Marcus Lemonis said, People, Process & Product.
What’re some difficulties you found in creating clothing made out of a hemp blend?
Finding the right suppliers is never easy. It was even more difficult for me because the hemp industry is super tiny. Only a handful of suppliers exist. What’s worse is I ended up working with a supplier that I had met when I visited Qingdao, China and ended up wasting 1 year trying to get products to launch. I tested the fabric from a small run she sent me, and it was linen rather than hemp. I stopped working with her after wasting a whole year. I then hired an agent in China whom I still work with today, and she has sorted everything out much better than I ever could.
How hard was it to find the right suppliers? How did you go about securing them?
Very difficult. That is why I have hired help in China, and it has been working out so far. Finding the right hemp fabric suppliers was more or less easy because I had met most of them on my trip to China. But finding the right cut & sew factory was difficult because none are experienced with hemp fabric and most legitimate factories don’t want to take our orders because we are too small. It has been a difficult journey working with a few different factories so far, not easy. But I believe we have secured a good factory now, fingers crossed.
What kind of checks and balances do you have to make sure you’re using hemp?
We cut and send a piece of every fabric order we make to SGS for fabric blend testing to confirm it is made of the correct blend. We also do random testing at times. We even did a UV test recently and found our fabric is rated at the highest levels of sun protection at UPF 50+!
People think that green fashion is expensive. How do you respond to that?
It is. But when it comes to hemp clothing, hemp has the power to become cheaper than cotton. If as much hemp were to be grown that cotton is grown today, hemp would be a cheaper fabric than cotton. The only way to get there is if as consumers we all start buying more hemp clothing.
How green are you in your own life? Any tips for those looking to lead a greener lifestyle?
I try to be as green as possible. I am a minimalist, I hate things. People get surprised at how little possessions I have because we really don’t need much in life. I learned this during my world travels. If I had to give any tips it would be to travel more but travel cheaply. Take public transport, hitchhike, eat local food, take more buses fewer planes and travel long. The longer you travel the more you learn how little you really need. And the more natural beauty you see of this world the more motivated you will be to protect it. Travel.