“Dear Mr. Bin Man,” a little boy scrawled on a piece of paper, “I am very worried about lots of rubbish. Will there be enough room in the world for me when I’m a grandad?” Mart Drake-Knight was 5 years old when he sent this heartfelt letter to his local sanitation department in Britain’s Isle of Wight. He had just been told by his mother about landfills, and the newfound knowledge wasn’t sitting well with him, he explained decades later from the TEDx stage.
Today, the award-winning entrepreneur is still concerned about “lots of rubbish,” but rather than writing letters, he and his brother Rob are using their passion for the environment to bring sustainability to the fashion world. “What changed is that we realized, as adults, we have the means to build the answer ourselves,” Drake-Knight told Nice News. Together they founded Teemill, and their mission was simple: reduce waste.
The certified carbon neutral clothing company produces T-shirts from 100% plastic-free organic materials, using renewable energy. The tees are printed to order to avoid warehouse overstock, and each one comes with a special QR code on its tag that customers can scan to send the shirt back once they’re is ready to part with it. Teemill then reuses the material to produce new products and provides a discount on a future purchase The end result is a sustainable, circular economy — meaning what goes out, comes right back in.
“Everyone in the world has a connection with clothing — it reflects our identity, protects us, it’s a huge part of the global economy, yet the way it operates today is extremely wasteful,” Drake-Knight said about his motivation to enter the fashion industry. “Most things in the world are made the same way: take a material, turn it into a product, use it for a bit and then throw it away: take, make, waste. It’s a design issue — so we set out to design the solution.”
And the innovative company isn’t keeping their T-shirt tech close to the vest. “For a solution to work,” Drake-Knight said, “it must be at least as big as the problem. So when it comes to ending waste, we need as many brands, businesses, and entrepreneurs on board with our mission.”
To that end, Teemill developed a free, open-access platform, which means anyone with an eye for fashion can use the brand’s services, including graphic design and e-commerce, to build their own sustainable brand. Today, Teemill has a community of over 10,000 people, including big names like Tesla and BBC Earth, as well as digital content creators and independent sellers.
“We’ve developed the tech to make a circular economy accessible for all,” said Drake-Knight. “Now, it’s time to share that with the world and scale it so that we can truly fix the waste problem.”