Teemill may well be nifty in terms of the high tech, efficient and profitable business model but it started out as a sustainability project and continues to be a trailblazer in an era where low impact matters. If you sell t-shirts online with Teemill, that means your brand and product share that same sustainability story.
We wanted to reduce waste using technology and were inspired by a rumour that Dell only hold 1 hours stock at any one time – at that moment, we had around 6 months of stock, half of it was probably never going to sell. A complete waste that plagues the industry, which explains all the sales and subsequent race-to-the-bottom culture.
We worked very hard in our first 5 years to improve upon business as usual by building a supply chain where all our products were made from more sustainable materials like organic cotton, in ethically accredited, wind powered factories.
We also developed a cool eco-labelling system to help customers shop quickly with a conscience. Best of all, we built some cool traceability tools so our customers could see where our clothing comes from, how it’s made and who made it.
But none of that changed the fact that without a radical new business model, we had either to bin the waste or do regular sales, eroding price and eventually compromising our values. We needed to change the system. Our focus became on inventing some way to prevent waste in fashion, some technology to reduce our stockholding from 6 months to more like 6 days, or better, 6 hours.
And what followed was 3 years of intense technology investment, the result of which is the reduction of that time to a negative figure: Products at our factory do not exist until after they are ordered.
The Rapanui factory in the UK, and Teemill – the software and hardware system we have built to make this real-time fashion supply chain – is what makes it possible for anyone anywhere in the world to access it. It’s free, requires no previous training or experience to use – just human determination and creativity. It’s amazing to see what people create with it.
Most importantly, during that period we made a point of sticking to the provenance, sustainability and ethics of the product and locked that in: Every tee sold on Teemill is printed in the UK and made from Organic Cotton in an ethically accredited, wind powered factory with traceability from seed to shop. If you’re a 15 year old kid in a bedroom or head of fundraising for a national charity, with Teemill, all that comes standard.
Teemill is making sustainability the new normal.
- You can read even more about supply chain sustainability at Rapanui