Teemill: Building a Circular Economy on the Cloud

Did you know that a truckful of clothes is disposed of in landfills every second and that less than 1% of the material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing? As the advancement of technology continues to propel the fashion industry towards a more positive direction, UK based company Teemill might have found an innovatively smart way to transform the industry as we know it by creating systems where brands can work better, effortlessly.


A Step Towards a Circular Fashion System

Co-founded in 2009 by Mart Drake-Knight, fashion tech company Teemill is solving the fashion waste problem of products used for a short time and then being thrown away. They are doing this with their circular production process that turns old t-shirts into new ones and regenerates natural systems.  Driven by the approach that the fashion supply chain is a connected system, Teemill’s strategy incorporates six key areas: organic cotton, water, renewable energy, no surplus production, material flow and packaging.

Driven to eliminate waste at each step of the supply chain, Teemill is utilising disruptive technology in the hope that open source and circularity will lead to rapid change in the fashion industry. “The key is the conscientious application of technology,” Drake-Knight told the UK Independent. Adding, “Technology is how we make all this affordable. It also means we can invest more in our team”.

With various fashion brands already taking advantage of Teemill’s free to use platform, fashion companies like Electric Tees have found incorporating circularity into their business model a smooth experience. Explaining their experience with the platform further, Creative Director Simon King said: “Although I hugely recommend Teemill, I must add that there is a variable in printing quality. When your order increases, the prints are not always the same. When I ordered 150 printed t-shirts, there were inconsistencies with the prints”. Adding, “Also, it would be great if Teemill introduces more garment selection and shapes to what they already have to offer.”

Applying circular design at every stage, Teemill has made sure that all their t-shirts are designed to be sent back and remade when they have worn out. “We make new products from the material we recover, and the cycle itself is renewable. Our products can be returned and remade again and again and again,” states their website. When it comes to the benefits that come with aligning oneself with Teemill, the Ellen Macarthur Foundation identified the forward thinking company as a company that is successfully removing barriers of entry in the fashion industry. “Anyone with an internet connection can participate and co-create the future of fashion. New brands get the same systems as a mature brand for free, without surplus production,” states their case study.


Co-creating The Future of Fashion

As global demand for clothes continues to grow, Teemill, a company that began as a fashion brand Rapanui, takes a holistic approach in “designing out waste at each step of the material supply chain”. Hailed for finding a way for the circular supply chain to be scaled up,  one of the ways that Teemill has done this has been by finding a way to reconfigure knitting machines to accommodate the characteristics of recycled cotton.

Looking to change the business of fashion, Drake-Knight has been successfully decreasing impacts from field to factory, by addressing adverse environmental and health effects from material production. One of the ways he is doing this is by using real-time manufacturing technology designed to eliminate overproduction. This means that products are only produced when they are needed. 

Proving that it is possible to operate differently, Drake-Night explains: “By rewarding people for keeping the material flowing, we’re changing the way people think about their wardrobe. Rather than waste, they see assets and then some really interesting stuff starts to happen. Because our customer is also our supplier, everybody is rewarded for keeping the material flowing.”

Operating in a way that solves some of the big problems faced by the fashion industry today, Teemill’s connected system seems to be the answer if you are ready to amplify your supply chain through open source and circularity.

Written by Muchaneta Kapfunde


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