Words by Smiley Team
What do you do with your old clothes when they’re too worn out? Take them to a charity shop, perhaps? Or, if they look pretty scuffed, they might just end up in the bin.
One clothing retailer is on a mission to reduce the amount of clothing that ends up in landfill – so much so, they design products that can be returned and remade… again and again. They call it Remill.
Rob & Mart Drake-Knight are the brains behind this idea. They founded a sustainable clothing brand called Rapanui first in 2009 after seeing what the fashion industry was like and thinking they could do better. They wanted it to be circular.
Shortly after, they wanted it to take it one step further and really make a change in the world. So they came up with Teemill: an online platform anyone could use to tap into their supply chain and use it to create their own brand – where clothes are never thrown away, just remade. Rapanui itself became a “Teemill” brand.
“Remill is the tech that makes up our circular economy clothing,” explains Sofia Voudouroglou, from Teemill. “It’s all our own, we’ve developed the tech and the supply chain ourselves.”
This means they design products that are made to be sent back, and remake them into brand-new products. “There is no beginning and end,” says Sofia.
Anyone with a T-shirt from the Teemill brand will have a barcode on each label. Whenever they want to return, they scan the code, get a shipping label, return the product for free, and get a discount off of their next purchase.
“When we receive these clothes, we split the material into different colourways, thread the fabric, and weave it again into something new,” says Sofia. These new T-shirts have a certain effect, she says, as they’re made up of bits of different older T-shirts in different colours.
But that means the clothes aren’t recycled or upcycled, they’re actually turned into the same thing – but have nothing lower quality about them.
“It’s the idea of seeing waste as material, rather than waste,” says Sofia. “We take an issue with the word waste, as it makes people see their wardrobe as something they’ll wear and get rid of.”
Once the founders realised they could use this Remill technology, they wanted to help other people do the same thing. That’s how Teemill came about. They work with existing and new brands and businesses who want to create something that’s truly circular.
As of June 2022, the brand has Remilled 25,900 kg of fabric into new T-shirts.
“Our goal is to continue this movement,” says Sofia, “and move the fashion industry away from linear processes, away from buying new materials.
“We’ve realised there is a real need to tell people this technology exists and help as many as possible get involved and think about circularity when it comes to fashion.”
SECONDHAND: When it comes to individual action, ensure to give your clothes a second life by upcycling or donating them to charity shops rather than landfill.