LDC Top 50 2021
Mart and Rob Drake-Knight
Growing up on the Isle of Wight, Mart and Rob Drake-Knight spent all their time outdoors and saw the impact of plastic waste on their beaches and local community. After university, the pair started Teemill in their parents’ shed.
Their vision: “To create a circular economy for t-shirts,” says Mart. The organic cotton t-shirts are designed to come back to Teemill to become new t-shirts in a factory powered by renewable energy. “We help people and companies go green and wasteless,” adds Rob. “No one can compete with reusability once it is established.” The business is doubling revenues every year. Mart says: “We are creating a different fashion economy.”
Our ambition is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy by designing the digital infrastructure needed to make it work.”
What did you want to achieve when you started the business?
Mart: We have always been very connected to our environment. As kids, growing up in the Isle of Wight, we were always fishing or surfing. We both wanted to do something about sustainability because we couldn’t find the product we wanted to buy. It sounds naïve now for a couple of kids straight out of university, working out of their mum and dad’s shed, but we wanted to create a circular economy for t-shirts.
How does your business contribute to a more sustainable future?
Mart: More than two-thirds of clothing is made out of plastic, and three out of five t-shirts bought today will be thrown away within three months. They will either go to landfill or incineration. It’s insane. And with plastic clothes, you wash them and particles end up in the sea. We use renewable energy not fossil fuels and design our t-shirts to come back to us when they are worn out; we have 100,000 remade t-shirts in stock at any time. Our ambition is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy by designing the digital infrastructure needed to make it work.
How has technology given you an edge in this industry?
Rob: We use cutting edge machines and robots to print products in real time, making the process extremely efficient. This means no waste. And we have created free software that lets people all over the world create their own t-shirt brand: we have worked with brands like Tesla and BBC Earth, helping them create a sustainable supply chain for t-shirts.