Circular Fashion: True circularity is about ‘Make Back’ not ‘Take Back’

For all the talk about circular fashion, for all the millions of pounds big fashion brands are still pumping into talk about trying to create circularity, it’s already been achieved – by a clothing brand on the Isle of Wight.

Teemill has been working on circularity since its inception in 2009 and achieved it three years ago for their own products. They’ve now moved beyond talking about ‘Take Back’ schemes and have progressed to talking about ‘Make Back’ programmes.

“If fashion is serious about circularity then brands need to think about ‘making back’ not just ‘taking back’,” says Teemill CEO Chris Houghton.

The circular fashion specialist is now launching ‘take back from anyone’ effort to recover 100% cotton clothing from any brand, a campaign they’re calling ‘Thread not Dead’. The recovered products will be used to make new products, via Teemill’s fibre-to-fibre recycling initiative ‘Remill’.

Jason Segel wearing Choose Love t-shirt
Jason Segel wears a Choose Love t-shirt: Do you have a t-shirt in your wardrobe that you never knew was Teemill?

‘Make Back’ not ‘Take Back’

Teemill’s campaign is a response to the ineffectiveness of high street brands’ clothing take back schemes.

Recently, investigations like Changing Market’s Take-Back Trickery report have highlighted that brands are not doing a whole lot with clothes customers are dropping off at collection points. Despite grand ‘take back’ schemes clothing is still ending up in landfill, waste dumps or incinerators.

Houghton insists: “Take back without make back is useless and solves nothing. For us, the end goal has always been about making sure all our products can have multiple lives and never go to waste. We have proved we can make circularity work at scale for us, now the time is right to help others.

“Not only will we take back cotton products from any brand from our customers, we are actively talking to other brands about how we can help them scale their circularity efforts using our supply chain and technology.”

Joe Wilkinson wearing a Remill tshirt
Joe Wilkinson: comedian, actor and screenwriter modelling a Remill t-shirt

Behind the seams of Teemill

Teemill is probably one of the UK’s biggest purpose-led brands you’ve never heard of.

It’s likely you’ve seen their products or even own one without realising it. That’s because they are behind swag from global NGOs like WWF and Greenpeace; create workwear for brands like Selfridges and Fortnum and Masons; create apparel for influencers such as the Wim Hof and the Chatabix team; and are the tech behind small businesses like Branded and Moniker and She Shirts. Heck, we even co-created a Live Frankly store for research purposes, and it took all of 10 minutes.

Teemill circular fashion t-shirts
Recycled ‘Remill’ tees, available in five colours

Less than 1% of the world’s clothes are recycled back into new clothes once they are worn out. From day one, Teemill’s mission was to solve that crisis.

Currently, Teemill are recovering about 4,000 items a month from their own products. They use this to make new products. It has set a target of keeping 100m items in the loop by 2027.

Clothing which is deemed to be still wearable, will be processed and sent to Teemill’s UK-based charity resale partners.

To send your cotton clothing to Teemill and receive store credit visit teemill.com/threadnotdead.

Last year we interviewed Teemill co-founder Mart Drake-Knight to find out how they solved circularity. Read the interview here.

About the author

Lizzie Rivera

Lizzie Rivera

Lizzie Rivera is the founder and chief purpose officer at Live Frankly. She has been writing for mainstream publications for 10 years, specialising in sustainability and ethics since 2014.

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