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Hemp's versatility on show in Cape Town emporium

by Simangele Mzizi 27 Mar 2024

The Cape Town CBD’s coolest ‘hood, the East City, is now home to Hemporium, a destination store dedicated to showcasing the versatility and sustainability of hemp.

A play on the word “emporium”, Hemporium at 84 Harrington Street stocks several products made from sustainable hemp, including hemp clothing, accessories, cosmetics and textiles.

It is situated inside the city’s first mixed-use building (valued at R180 million) constructed from hempcrete blocks and hemp building materials – and caters to those interested in living a life that is gentle on the planet. In keeping with the hemp theme, exposed hemp blocks form part of the store’s stylish interior, which has been fitted by local brand Elula Furniture.

The large space has an eclectic mix, from handcrafted décor pieces by Moonbasket and Threads that bind us to accessories such as backpacks, toiletry bags and wallets made by a dynamic team of a mother and her two daughters. Hemporium also has its own locally manufactured cosmetics brand comprising shampoos, conditioners, body lotions, handwashes, deodorants and shower gels. The nutrition range has been sourced from local businesses Credé Natural Oils and Soaring Free Superfoods, and includes hemp seed oil, hemp seed protein powder and hemp seeds. Then there is a clothing section with high quality items from local brands Yarnh, Sitting Pretty, Sage & Sunday and Reefer, which makes shoes from hemp textiles and cork. Customers can also view hemp textiles and order them by the metre.

Hemporium - Shale Tinkler
Hemporium marketing manager: Shale Tinkler.


In South Africa, the cultivation of hemp with a permit was legalised in 2021. Before then, Hemporium was able to import textiles and other processed products made from hemp.

Hemporium marketing manager, Shale Tinkler, has been with the brand for over a decade and has seen it all. “It is great that hemp cultivation is now permitted because the local industry can now be established”, he says, recalling a time when one of Hemporium’s first shops in Constantia was raided by SAPS members who confiscated products such as socks and T-shirts to test them to see if they had THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant.

Perceptions have changed since then with hemp and other cannabis products becoming mainstream. These days hemp products can be found in shopping malls. Dispensaries with medicinal cannabis for users with scripts are also commonplace. The recent Cannabis Expo at the Cape Town International Convention Centre bears testament to a rapidly growing industry.

Tinkler explains: “Industrial hemp had been illegal for many years since the 1940s. The United States was one of the first countries to ban it. We are not quite sure why. It could be because people perceived hemp as a drug, although industrial hemp doesn’t make you high.”

Various products at Hemporium.


Hemporium was founded in 1996 by Duncan Parker and Alistair Maclean, then students at the University of Cape Town, with Tony Budden, Africa’s foremost hemp expert, joining soon thereafter to help with marketing and general hemp activism.

Today Parker and Budden still serve as the company’s directors together with Philippa Mohr, who is the managing director and fabric expert involved in the day-to-day operations and overseeing the staff of 13 people including the directors. The company is based at Westlake Business Park, where another store is situated.

Moving to Harrington Street in December 2023 was more of a homecoming as Hemporium once had shops in Long Street and later in Wale Street in the early 2000s.

Hemporium store located at 84 Harrington Street.


Tinkler, who joined Hemporium because he “got a kick” out of changing perceptions of the plant, and “putting my energy towards something that’s better for the planet”, says the idea behind Hemporium was to show South Africans how “positive” the plant is and how much good it can do for the country and Africa as a whole.

“It’s an incredibly versatile plant that can provide solutions to many of our challenges such as food, fuel, clothing, housing and medicine at such a low cost to our environment. For instance, my T-shirt being made from hemp means that it is biodegradable. Hemp also grows quickly, given the right conditions, so you can have more than one growing cycle per year allowing for a continuous demand for materials, if need be,” he says. At present, the company imports its textiles as the local hemp manufacturing industry finds its feet.

When asked about the company’s secret to success, he says it is the versatility of hemp – but it’s a double-edged sword. “We have something for everyone, but that can be a challenge as it is difficult to hone in on only one aspect. We are not just a clothing or textiles brand, we do it all. In some ways that’s great, but it means we have to be versatile.”

IMAGES: Hemporium, CCID