Photography by Darryl James / Financial Post Magazine

Photography by Darryl James / Financial Post Magazine

Vancouver manufacturer creates a buzz in apparel

Changing the way an industry does business takes time, especially if there is a perfectly acceptable and entrenched way of doing things. Try doing it on your own and you may find more than a few closed doors, which underlines the importance of working with, not against, existing industry players.

A collaborative approach certainly is paying off for Naturally Advanced Technologies Inc. (NAT). Initially, it was primarily a hemp apparel manufacturer. But when industry veteran Ken Barker joined as CEO in 2006, he quickly realized the Vancouver-based company offered more potential than just selling T-shirts made from alternative fibres.

NAT first had to prove the hemp and flax fibres it manufactures, using enzymes to break down the raw material into fine strands, were a more effective, durable and sustainable alternative to cotton, which has been used to make clothing for millennia.

At the time, cotton was cheaper than alternative fibres even though it’s a land-intensive crop that requires huge quantities of water and large amounts of pesticides.


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