The creators of James Jeans and Alkhemist Los Angeles made denim history this week when they opened the first ever licensed cannabis cultivation facility in the City of Los Angeles. Alkhemist celebrated the commencement of operations with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 9 at its state-of-the-art indoor cultivation facility.
“We are excited to become the premiere locally grown producer of artisanal cannabis for the Southern California market and beyond,” remarked Founder and CEO, James Chung. Created with Co-Founder Conrad Yun, Alkhemist will not only cultivate new cannabis products, but the company is innovating the future of denim and apparel by merging the two worlds as a vertically integrated operator in the legal cannabis sector.
The company’s apparel and lifestyle division, Alkhemist Los Angeles, specializes in Hemp Incorporated premium denim, apparel and accessories as well as CBD-infused products made from hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana. The brand hopes to encourage a socially conscious “hemp lifestyle” and to help revitalize the L.A. garment industry by creating products made with renewable and sustainably grown hemp materials. Think CBD in your morning cup of Joe and hemp clothing as the next evolution of the L.A. lifestyle. We caught up with Chung and got the inside scoop on the company’s cannabis operation and hemp lifestyle brand, which recently launched its women’s collection of hemp-infused tees, jeans and trucker jackets and comfy hempleisurewear.
Why did you decide to launch a cannabis cultivation facility?
I’ve been doing Chinese medicine for nine years now. That’s the last big study that I got into. To backtrack, I was a lawyer for many years and got into the fashion business. Then through Sunnie Kim at Hana Financial, I had an opportunity to learn about Chinese medicine… By delving deep into it, I realized I’ve got to go back to school. So, at 45 I went back to Chinese medicine school. I graduated two years ago. During that time, I realized that cannabis is one of the core essential herbs in Chinese medicine. Around that time is when California was moving toward full legalization with Proposition 64. That was the segway.
What kind of products are you creating?
We have the cannabis we grow. And then obviously the flowers are extracted for medicinal and recreational use and then you’ve got the leaves and stems and all that. Traditionally, you would just throw that all away as waste product. We are going to collect all of that and that’s going to be processed….to [give to] our partners that produce fabric. The products, the jeans that we have, some have six percent hemp and some have 50 percent. We are now starting the hemp revolution…This is the beginning. I can guarantee that hemp is going to be a regular staple in our everyday apparel composition.
Are you going to be selling cannabis products?
Yes, that too. Our other department is we have Chinese medicine infused with CBD such as gummies and edibles. I’m a Chinese medicine doctor right now. That’s my real title.
Tell me about your new denim brand Alkhemist Los Angeles
The brain trust we have is all those years of James Jeans know how. I would have to say it is so fun and refreshing to be able to go back to our 15 years of archives and pull out styles and now we use hemp in it. It’s a whole new remake, it’s awesome. 15 years ago in 2004 when we came out that was the real rise of premium denim. We just don’t have that any more. The current state of apparel is really flat. We’ve been skimming that doldrum state for too long.
Are you creating your own fabrics?
We’ve been developing our own hemp options with our real close partner for many years. I encourage all the mills to dig in and get hemp going. We need friendly opportunity competition - the more the better. This is the beginning.
What fabrics are you using?
We have now a 48 percent, a 25 percent and a six percent hemp content. I would have to say that six percent is very yummy. I know, why don’t we go higher? In due time we’ll do it…Hemp is great, but we still need to offer the quality, the feel of the premium denim and then be able to inch our way up.
What are the key pieces in the collection?
Women’s is available now and men’s will be available shortly. For women, we have the nice summer bell bottom wide flare, shorts, the skinny, and I believe we have one more, the cargo. Because this is a hemp lifestyle, we’re going to be very capsule collection based. [We will offer] men’s, women's, kids and we’ll even get into babywear…. Diapers have to be hemp. They are naturally antimicrobial and anti-odor.
What other products are you creating with hemp?
We are doing hemp everything. The hemp lifestyle - we totally mean it. We have our hemp paper straws, hemp plastic and more. We are the first in premium denim and the first one in L.A. to be able to legally grow the source material that we can develop.
Do you think people will get confused about cannabis vs. hemp?
In a short time we will all understand that it’s all the same - hemp cannabis. The species is different, but we’re looking at the whole genus of it. Hemp is cannabis sativa and then you have cannabis indica and a few other ones. It is a variation. The whole point is if it is less than .03 it’s called hemp. Over [.03] and then it’s the regular cannabis that we’re dealing with. It’s more important to look at the characteristics.
Who do you foresee as your customer?
I would say it’s got to be folks who really have that understanding about their lifestyle course. Lifestyle is such a happy term that people loosely use. You have to have the whole thing and to look at what are you are consuming and wearing. Lifestyle is that social consciousness. Obviously, what we eat, you have to be careful about what goes in. And I think now we are putting another layer onto it. What we wear should be equally as important.