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The story of our shirt

The story of our shirt

We set out to develop a stylish, low emitting shirt that can be recycled. Quite the mission.

Our real focus was on having 50% recycled cotton and 50% organic cotton in all of our shirts. It is vital to us here at Neem, that we work with partners who share our ethos and values and believe in what we are trying to achieve as a brand.  

We are focussed on closing the loop and circularity in the way fashion is produced.  

We teamed up with Canclini - I’ve known them for many years, even teaching Mauro Canclini (in my mind the best shirt textile designer of them all) how to play cricket on the beaches of Puglia. Canclini believe in our approach, but they know the market is not following yet. We understand this is a long journey for both customers and suppliers, and Canclini are in full support of our plight.  

Various iterations of the perfect shirt continued. Typically recycled cotton is coarse and a very short staple fibre so is really better suited to t-shirts, sweatshirts and casual clothing, so to develop the yarn into a more luxurious and smarter product was not easy and if we are honest, something we are still perfecting.  

We looked at knits with Canclini and Euro Jersey as a solution to this, which meant a softer more comfortable product. With shrinkage challenges, we looked at new finishes with Crespi and Canclini to develop a softer finish - all the while crating a narrative with Green story, an independent company that tracks the CO2e of each shirt, running a life cycle assessment on the product comparing to a similar item produced in the more traditional, wasteful way. We were annoyingly curious about the analytics behind the data and if you are too – here is a link to the full report

We continue to push the production process, and recognise if we keep on challenging the makers we work closely with to develop a higher quality recycled content, the emissions of the product will reduce. We currently review every step of our process from the quality of the actual yarn itself to the colour and quality of the dye that is used. Interestingly, this is where the most carbon is emitted and as both Canclini and Ferre/Recovertex /Nurel operate on 100% hydroelectric energy, we’re confident we can reduce emissions of a single shirt down further.

The fact we work with makers who use renewable energy is what really matters.

Sustainable menswear

When we felt we have nailed the fabric, we worked closely with a family owned shirt maker, introduced through a long standing Italian friend. We frustrated them – we wanted a recycled label (worked on again by a supportive friend Ed from Genesis) recycled thread, recycled buttons, and zero packaging. 

Anna Poletti, the mastermind behind our shirt patterns was patient, purposeful, passionate and anything but polluting.  Anna and Luca understood Neem and what we were trying to build. The hardest two areas were to create a 100% recycled thread and fusing (that’s the stuff inside the collar give the collar stability and strength). Even now, we are intent on moving to a thread that is not just recycled polyester but 100% recycled cotton. The simple fact is cotton biodegrades, and we want to create a garment that can either be recycled or can biodegrade.

sustainable menswear

After testing the stitching and fusing we moved on to buttons; most buttons are 100% polyester. We steadfastly refused to use them, the normal alternative is mother of pearl but fraudulence is rife so we worked with an Italian button supplier Gruppo Uniesse to develop a button that is 40% recycled mother of pearl -  obtained by recycling mother of pearl waste.  We want to increase this level and are now currently trialling new transitions.

As a final recap the shirt is 

  • 50% recycled cotton
  • 50% organic cotton
  • Is a truly circular product, can be recycled and made new again
  • Button is 40% recycled
  • Collar fusing is 100% recycled
  • Stitching thread is 100% recycled
  • Label is 100% recycled

Beat that! I hope you feel as proud to wear our shirts as I did creating them.


sustainable menswear

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