Rob Drake-Knight | Co-founder | Teemill

Teemill and other platforms have revolutionized the fashion industry.

Founded in 2014, Teemill is the world’s biggest dedicated circular economy platform. It has a partnership with over 10,000 brands including international NGOs, businesses, media, online content creators and influencers. They provide an open-access circular design platform and supply chain platform. Interview with Fibre2FashionTeemill Co. founder Rob Drake-Knight Discussions on designing and selling circular clothing.

When did you start Teemill? Who were the founders of Teemill?

Teemill was created in 2018 from Rapanui fashion brand. Teemill repurposed the technology and supply chain solutions that were used to create Rapanui, and made them free for everyone.

How did you get the idea for Teemill to be created?

We were shocked to learn that 10% of global CO2 is caused by clothing. That 60% of clothes are made of or with plastic, and that every second a truckload of textiles waste goes into landfill or incineration, we decided to help solve the problem. That’s why our products are made from organic materials, using renewable energy, and designed to come back to be remanufactured when they’re worn out.

Business-as-usual means that clothes are mass-produced and speculatively produced. This results in huge amounts waste. 40 percent of clothing is never worn. Because we print in real time, only the items that people actually need are made. This saves money, which we can use to make organics and renewables more affordable. Our robots can do the same thing and make the packing process 30% more efficient. We can now afford 10X the cost of packaging made from plants and not plastic. This technology is shared openly online with other brands through our platform at

How does Teemill function?

Teemill is an open-source, circular and sustainable supply system and ecommerce platform. Anyone can use it for creating their own online store. They can also connect to our circular supply network to begin designing and selling circular clothing. Our products are made with 100% organic cotton or recycled Remill yarn. Everything is made from renewable energy.

Which machine is used to print T-shirts

Every item is printed on demand within seconds of an order being placed. This means that there’s no inventory sitting in warehouses, no waste, or overproduction. Our printers use only the right amount of inks for each print and mix them in real-time. Brother GTX DTG Printers are what we use, but it is not the hardware that matters, but rather the software. We write it to work with any digital printer and we also build our own machinery and 3D print parts that we can imagine, but that don’t exist on the market yet.

What number of brands have you been onboarded by? What is the average number of styles a brand displays in its online store?

We have around 10,000 stores using the platform – from global organisations like Greenpeace, WWF, BBC Earth, to online content creators such as Yoga with Adriene, as well as many individual designers and creatives. The product range is vast. Some stores are limited to a handful of products. Others add new designs all the time. Because everything is print on demand, we only print what is needed when it’s needed—meaning stores can have hundreds of different designs that exist on the cloud, without having to worry about over-stocking.

What are your top markets outside and within the UK?

Our biggest markets outside of the UK are the US, Europe and the US. However, we are keen to expand our work in Asia with our Indian partners.

What is the turnaround time after an order has been placed?

Most orders are printed on the same day. Shipping times depend on the location of your order and which delivery option you choose. Domestic orders should arrive in 5 days.

Do you own a manufacturing plant?

Yes, there are two factories in the UK, one in Tamil Nadu and one in the Czech Republic.

What fabrics, dyes, or prints are used for t-shirts making?

We are an organic certified company and use low-waste printing technology and inks that meet the GOTS/Soil Association organic criteria. Our printing technology provides an unlimited number of colours and a high-quality feel. Our inks are free from animal-derived products and have not been tested on animals.

Tell us about the latest campaign.

For #TakebackFriday we’re reversing Black Friday. So, instead of asking customers to buy lots of new things, we’re paying them to send back their old Teemill products. Teemill products are made with 100% organic cotton or recycled Remill fiber. We can make new products from old products and offer financial rewards to customers who do so. We’re trying to involve as many of the 10,000 stores that use our platform as possible, and we have the backing of some big names like WWF, Rapanui, and BBC Earth.

What are the main trends in T-shirts in terms of design and colours?

The use of T-shirts has been a tradition in supporting causes, campaigns, and activism for a long time. This trend is now growing as tools make it easier to create your own brands and products. Teemill and other platforms have revolutionized the fashion industry by allowing anyone to be their own fashion designer and personalize their clothes in a way that best reflects their values.

There is a growing awareness of issues surrounding synthetic fibres and their poor recycling. It is leading to a growing interest in natural materials, such as cotton and wool, and also a greater awareness of how these materials are made. We have been focusing on organic cotton grown in India, 100 percent certified.

What are your future plans for Teemill?

Next year we will expand our impact and partner manufacture from the UK and EU, to US and EMEA. Through a partnership in India, we will be able to serve customers throughout India, Singapore, and the rest of Asia.

We’re also working on being able to take back clothes from other brands. It’s harder to figure out because most clothes just aren’t designed to be circular, but it would be a huge step forward for the industry and we are definitely on the way to doing it. We do already use post-consumer materials from other brands, but we can’t yet accept them directly from the customer.

We’re also working hard to raise awareness of the solutions we’ve developed, because a lot of people don’t even know these solutions exist. The greater our impact, the more people who get involved in Teemill. That’s why we’re also working on new ways for people to participate. A Shopify plugin was recently released. This allows anyone who has a Shopify shop to connect to our circular supply chains and create and sell products. An API has been created that allows anyone to connect to our supply chain from any platform, website or app.

What are your sustainability goals over the next two-years?

Along with the focus on helping more people participate in creating a circular economy for fashion, we’re constantly evolving the products we offer, so that we can tackle different challenges in the industry.

(Interviewer: Shilpi Panjabi)

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