A company is seeking to target the worst aspects of wasteful fast fashion and demonstrate and economically-profitable circular economy with that most standard of garments—the t-shirt.
Utilizing the second-largest source of cotton on Earth, Teemill’s business model is making mass-produced t-shirts from mass-produced t-shirts.
These days, if you’re having a corporate event, a good idea is to print 100 cotton t-shirts to commemorate it. Going on tour and looking to drum up some merchandise money for your band? Print 500 cotton t-shirts to sell at the merch booth.
Trying to keep the World Wildlife Fund’s profits going? Print 10,000 cotton t-shirts to send to donors.
In the world of fast fashion, the ubiquity of the casual t-shirt with something printed on it seems immeasurable in scope.
That’s where Teemill comes in. Claiming a truckload of clothes is dumped in a landfill or burned around the world every second, they’re trying to get a handle on this waste flow by cutting off the t-shirt spigot.
Every t-shirt bought from Teemill can be sent back, ground up into cotton fibers, sterilized and remade into new t-shirts in a pair of carbon-neutral factories powered by renewable energy.
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“We get told constantly as consumers ‘change what you buy, make better choices, educate yourself, do your bit.’” explains Teemill Co-founder Mart Drake-Knight in a TedX about his experience entering into sustainable fashion.
“So when we tried to do our bit and buy products made from organic materials… or products that are designed in such a way that they don’t eventually end up in a landfill, it’s like they don’t exist. Actually the more we looked, the more we learned that almost everything in the world seems to be made in the exact same way.”
The torso tag on every shirt comes with a QR code that when sent back to Teemill is scanned and worth a little rebate. In this way the consumer also becomes the supplier, and where Teemill would have to buy new cotton, they instead spend that money on shipping to retrieve old or unwanted Teemill tees from previous buyers, and on a little incentive for them to do so.
Sustainable fashion is not catching up to the waste from its more wasteful industry cousins, and selling sustainably grown cotton, or t-shirts made from recycled water bottles, when the price point is over $25 a shirt, is just not going to catch on.
Taking advantage of economies of scale by selling in bulk to people who need hundreds of t-shirts, and lower manufacturing costs from opening a factory in India, Teemill is adapting the aspects that made fast fashion so wasteful and using them to their advantage.
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To these they pair smart tech innovations like machines that print t-shirts with custom designs in real-time along with orders to reduce the amount of warehouse inventory needed, and cloud platforms that allow small designers to start their own fashion brands linked to the Teemill circular model.
WATCH the start to finishing T-milling process…
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