The Menswear Style Podcast

Nick Reed, Founder of Neem London / Modern Sustainable Style

October 29, 2021 Menswear Style Episode 143
The Menswear Style Podcast
Nick Reed, Founder of Neem London / Modern Sustainable Style
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Neem is lifestyle brand named after years of seeing the beautiful Neem tree in India, on countless buying and sourcing trips by founder Nick Reed who has worked in Menswear for over 20 years. The Neem is a natural herb that has healing properties and is used as a natural antiseptic. It also has anti-bacterial and viral properties and has been heralded as “An ancient cure for a modern world”. The founder has created Neem as an ‘antiseptic’ for fast fashion; to produce men's clothing that has been made with care, a result of a transparent supply chain with the safeguarding of our environment as the focus. Neem products last longer and when they are worn out, can be returned and re-cycled. Neem clothes are always smart, yet dishevelled and they're sustainable with an authority on style – they call it Power Casual.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Nick Reed, Founder of Neem London about his new post-pandemic work uniform that is elegant, comfortable and versatile. The brand is focused on sustainability and uses textile waste to recycle back into clothing. Our host Peter Brooker and Nick talk about sustainability, financing the brand, reducing carbon footprint, and being inspired by the style of Douglas Jardine and Richie Tenenbaum.

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Hello and welcome to another episode of the menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker and today I'm talking to Nick Reed, who is the founder of neem, London. And Nick created name as an antiseptic for fast fashion to produce men's clothing that has been made with care, a result of a transparent supply chain, the safeguarding of our environment, as the focus, Niamh products last longer, and when they are worn can be returned and recycled. And to get into all that and to talk about name in his own words, here is Nick. So I'm married. I've been working menswear for 20 years. We talked a bit about that later. But mean London is focused on three important areas really. But the first is what we're calling a post pandemic work uniform. So it's a product that's focused at the work market, but in a in a more modern, elegant, comfortable, but still smart way. So a product that's designed to be worn at home, at the office, to the gym, to the bar to the restaurant. So smart, elegant, comfortable, and unquestionably versatile as well. The second focus is that we've produced a recycled shirt range. We'll talk about the detail of that again later. But our focus is to produce a shirt that's the lowest emitting in greenhouse gas emission in the world. So we're about 2.32 kg, which for the for to keep that simple is the equivalent about 15 bananas. And I like that boat relate to that. And then the the average in the market, but based on the global average is about seven kg. So that that's a lot more than 15 bananas, but that's about 2100 plastic bags. So over over 200 bananas. So we want to produce a shirt that is low emitting. And then the third is that we want to increase the waste clothing textile waste that is recycled back into new clothing yarn. So at the moment we consume in this country about 1.1 million tonnes of clothing a year, we're actually pretty good at collecting that one of the best if not the best in the world, through our history of charity shops and which was of course linked to the church originally but but now diversified into cancer, leukaemia, and so on. So we collect about six 700,000 tonnes a year that that the remaining that gap between 1.1 and six 700 goes into bed, you know, we've all done it, we've all sort of seen a hole in our product, and we can't take that to charity, we'll just throw it in the bin. That's bad. We all know it's bad. But the six 700,000 We collector's country, the, we resell it in charity shops, as a nation, it's and then it's exported to the EU, or it's exported to Western Africa. There's been quite a bit about that in the press recently. And the market at the moment is built around resale and recycling into non clothing. So the main, the two main areas of non clothing are mattress fillers, and wipers. But at the end of it at the end of that resale at the end of that recycling into into mattress fillers, we as a country recycle about 1% back into new clothing yard. And what we want to do with a supply chain that we've built in the UK, and in the EU, both for cotton and for wool, we want to ensure that that textile waste that we take back from any brand is is recycled back into clothing. Some of it will be resold for charity, if it can be resold. We're not going to recycle anything that that can't be resolved. But if it's dirty and it's stained, if it has holes in it, if it's frayed at the collars, we we will ensure that that's recycled back into the new clothing yarn. And then we're running that through our wear well programme where as I say will take back Any men's 100% cotton 100% Will product and then we'll issue you with a 30 pound credit immediately once, once you send the product back to us, I love that. So that's on the website where you buy a well were bag, I believe for 10 pounds or something. And then we feel that all of the stuff that we have in our wardrobe say it's all the cotton stuff usable cotton stuff, not boxer shorts or anything like that the stuff that you have maybe old cotton shirts that you're trying to update, we can then put that in the bag, and then it's free to ship to you. And then that's right, yeah. And then you can interpret that into into some usable garments. And we then as a customer get 50 pound off the next purchase for you guys. That's exactly right. So yeah, we built up a supply chain using the first automated fibre sorter and cleaner in the UK. Now that's a government backed scheme. So we're working with them on that programme, that they'll clean and saw and anything that can be resold will resell straight to charity. We won't make money out of that. But anything that can be recycled, we will the will is recycled, shredded, and Stan and woven in the UK. And then the cotton is shredded, spun and woven in Spain and Italy. So the important thing is that recycled cotton at the moment is a fairly coarse yarn. So our recycled shirts were blending, it's a 5050 blend 50% recycled 50% organic cotton. But we believe that working closely with the spinners, we can get that recycled content up over the next few years. And therefore get the co2 emissions down and less waste to landfill. Because after you've worn our shirt for 234 years, I think the average in this country for a top men's top to be worn in about 3.3 years. If you send it back to us, once it's stale, your red wine, toothpaste, whatever it might be on it, we can recycle that product, we know that we can recycle all the all the shirts are most of the shirts that we're making. And that's our focus is that sell the product, bring it back to us. And then we recycle it using the supply chain that we built. Interesting. Well, if you're if you're my dad, the average would be 30.4 years because he wore everything to the last Fred and then even then it was still good enough to wear knights. But well, it's an important point that because we visited a couple of and there's no data on this but we visited a couple of recyclers one East London, one in Manchester. And then as we as we get going with the, the cleaner and the sort of, in, in the UK, the automated cleaner and sorta the anecdotal views that men do wear stuff out. And of course, that's great. You know, we want the dads to wear a product for 2030 years. But at the end of that we need to do something with that textile, with with that with that product. And because men wear products out of it more than women we believe then that that's ideal for recycling because you can't resell it. You know whether it's Depop vintage E bay Ferran, you know, Oxfam, you can't you can't resell that product if it's got holes in but you can still recycle it into new clothing. Yeah. Or, or in our case, it would go to rags, you know, like socks and stuff. And old tea towels, I'm telling you. I mean, we were probably the most sustainable family going, you know, because construction site so blue collar family, everything would then be well, we can't throw this perfectly good sock away just because it's got 10 holes in it. We can use it to bleed the radiators. And then it will get a life after that cleaning my dad's Jack, you know, polishing that up in the garage. But I digress. I digress. Nick so we're I mean, a lot of brands have kind of sustainable elements to them. Like if you go on many brands sites, so talk about some of the Sustainable stuff that doing hopefully, but yours has got sustainability almost at the heart of it. Why is this important for you to have a brand as the main focus? Yeah, the main focus is a style really it first and foremost. So we want to sell what we what we call power casual style, this post pandemic style so that that was the driving force. But in order to manufacture a product, and design a product in today's world, I think if you're a startup, you've just got to be super aware and focused on on the waste. And there's an enormous amount of waste in this industry in fashion and textiles, and how it's made, you know, the details of the product. And, you know, what the yarn count is, you know, what the weave construction is, and so on. So, really, we came at it from like, we want to produce a style, how can we produce that, with the least with the least carbon emissions possible. So it then became the focus really of the brand of, and as you opened up that ledge, or that Pandora's box, it then became clear that you really need to go into quite a lot of detail on the product, to ensure that it's as as genuine and as truthful and as honest as we want it to be. Right? And what what did you do in a previous lifetime before name, London to get to this stage. So you've had quite a history in menswear, maybe you can just tap upon that for a second. So I joined Charles turrets, shirt brand, the German street shirt brand, when they were about 5 million. So it was still a very small business owner run. And I joined them as the sort of the first buyer designer, product developer, and I stayed with them for just over 15 years, so left when it was 200 million. So we saw sort of meteoric growth, and then plateau and then meteoric growth and in that period, and then we grew internationally, but I am yeah, I grew, I grew with them. And most of my time there was buying and brand striker creative director. And then laterally for the last four years, I'd been at Moss Ross, similar role and buying a brand and also for period Merchandising Director there. So those two businesses are the places where I've sort of learned my skills over the last 1520 years. Did you always have half an eye on what you might do yourself starting up your own brand? Well, funnily enough, I started in 2006 in a very small way, called black hands. And it was an organic cotton shirt brand we call it black hands, because black hands is used as a natural pest within the growth of organic cotton, you know, no fertilisers, no pesticides. So it was a gang of us we sort of worked on it was very sort of early haphazard. You know, we sold a few to friends and family but we never really got it going. For various reasons. The website if you looked at it now, it was it was really quite clunky. So yeah, I always you know, had an ambition to present something new and an innovative to the to the menswear world really. And, you know, post pandemic, it felt like the right time black and clothing see seeing if it's still there that's something else on one Farfetch. No, I really didn't get that big. I love the name that I love these names. It sounds like some kind of homage to a punk band that you find playing Camden somewhere. I love it. I get a lot of founders on the show, Nick and they talk to me about how they started the brand and especially how they raised the capital something crowdfunding, some invests private funds, how did you get name London off the ground, a lot of support really, so a lot of support, industry support, and then personal finance, and then a little bit of raising from within the seis scheme from friends as well. You know, we're raising capital and so every day is a pitch day really. So yeah, We've raised some, and we'll continue to, to raise as we, as we, as we scale really? So I think the SEI scheme is a fantastic scheme to, to de risk investment. And, and also, you know, it's a it's an it's an it drives innovation in this country really. So that that's, that's the main three areas Yeah. Friends, family and personal. And where are we now in terms of are we on kind of second round seed funding, we've got the website, we've got the product, that the website, by the way, looks fantastic. And there's, it's not only just the products and the garments on there, but lots of other useful information like that the blogs and the journals, etc, people can really have a good time hanging around, how did it How long did it take to get that up and running especially about six, seven months, really. So we've been working on that since sort of April of this year, April, May of this year, so including the blogs, and the idea with the with the blog, is that, you know, we're targeting someone that wants to reduce their carbon I, I refer to it as the sort of the electric car market really someone who wants to reduce their carbon, but they don't quite know how you know that the average adult emissions in this country about 13 tonnes. So we want to reduce an individual wants to reduce that down. So buying electric car isn't, is an obvious way of doing that. As well, as you're eating less with me, you cutting out there, etc. Perhaps we'll talk about that later. But the the focus really on the site is to try and present ideas around if you want to go away for a weekend or you want to go to a restaurant, or you want to go to a festival, this, just be aware of the choices that you're making. And we're suggesting, so some ideas of how you might be able to cut your emissions without without disrupting your life too much. But but but certainly being aware of the choices that you're making. And regarding the choices that we're making around fashion, I mean, and buying clothes, what kind of things can we start telling people rather than to kind of just check the label of where it's made? Or you know, just not buy garments? For five to 10 pounds? Are there other things that we can really be pulling focus towards and telling people, you know, this is how you do shop, this is slow fashion? XYZ? Well, I think your dad is the the original innovator there. So I think you're gonna wear products out, right, you know, I think generally, men, as we've anecdotally believed are brilliant, but you got to wear products out, understand the brand that you're buying from, you know, it's a five minute bit of research on the site, you know, there's normally an about us page, there's normally a bit of information on the product, cut out all virgin polyester, or Virgin acrylic nylon. And that's a start, you know, try and try and use by brands that are using recycled materials. And product that can be recycled or can biodegrade. And then of course, buy secondhand secondhand is, it's a good industry in this country. And it's now growing. You know, where the products out buy secondhand. And then when it's old and raggy either clean your jaguar with it as your dad or send it to us and we'll, we'll recycle it. But just spend five minutes looking at the brand. I think that's important. It is slightly it's weird how, like the big fast fashion brands of our like the there's just for a few names like Primark, new, local, I mean, these these are the ones that are almost pernicious in the way that they can target to a young demographic who perhaps don't have that extra insight. And I'm not you know, this isn't every young person but I'm saying like the typical 1415 year old with some disposable income, might want to just go out and spend 50 quid or something on say 1015 garments, because they don't have that extra for of going further and dipping in. I mean, I'm kind of getting into my 40s now now I'm well into the idea of looking at what I'm wearing, where it's coming from, where it's made, was it offshore. was the supply chain like, but I don't think any of these factors are really coming into the young people, the really young people that want to go out and be having different garments for every day doing the YouTube, h&m haul videos and stuff like that, is there something? I don't really have a question at the end of this more of an observation, but do you find that also that it sees these kind of big conglomerates that are targeting young people, that's probably the biggest worry? Well, I think things are changing now, gradually, and slowly changing, you know, there's going to be a radical disruption are Primark and an h&m but they are going to increase recycled materials, organic materials, and natural materials. And I think even at that, you know, that that generation, there is an increase in secondhand through, you know, growth of Depop and vintage, as well as eBay. And if we can get more of that generation buying secondhand, and then educate them on, on materials and, and, and what is a living wage in rather than a minimum wage in Bangladesh, or, or Vietnam or even in this certain factories in this country, things will and are slowly changing. But, you know, if you're, if you want to go on a night out, and you haven't got much money in your pocket, unfortunately, there's a lot of opportunity to buy, yeah, a party top or a party jackets, not very much money, and you look great for the night. But therefore, you're not aware of what's going to happen to that product afterwards. That the responsibility shouldn't lie solely with the individual here, which it needs to lie with the companies and extended producer responsibility EPR that will grow in importance over the next few years, will ensure that these businesses will change. And they are changing. So I'm hopeful and optimistic. But this is a this is a 10 year game. It's not a it's not a 10 week game. But aren't we just kind of shooting in the dark, really asking big corporate and big business to have like a moral code when it's kind of in their nature to expand and make profit. I mean, that's what corporate and business is all about. They don't get into it to be world leaders in being nice to everyone and being nice to the planet. They're in it to make money. And this is their culture. So we're going to say to these, these big guys that please be nice about it, when really, it's kind of up to us to put them up on the stand. Well, that's that's macro governmental decisions, really, of tax and legislation, which, you know, is happening is coming in. It's fast enough. It's debatable. But it there will be and our taxes being introduced with regards to carbon emissions, your waste, as as well, as I said, EPR. So, that's up to government, whether the government's moving fast enough. Yeah, it's questionable. But, you know, tobacco industry is an example of that, you know, we could have sat here 40 years ago, knowing that smoking was bad, but still able to buy a pack of cigarettes. Quite a low price. You know, we're both in our 40s we know how much cigarettes were when we were sort of 16 and how much they are today. So I'm sure it won't be as as rapid and as and as aggressive as the as the tax that was imposed on the tobacco industry, but but something similar, it is certainly going to happen in in this industry over the next 1020 years. Oh, god. Yeah. I mean, the last time I actually bought a packet of cigarettes from a vending machine, I think it was 10 pounds. I mean, I'm going but I haven't smoked in about 10 years. So God knows what it is. Now. I don't think there have been big machines anybody. Right? Well, I mean, that I mean, when I was smoking like when I like to say when I had hair and hope in my eyes in my early 20s, right. I would comfortably you know, buy a packet for say four to five pounds and if someone asked me for a cigarette I was I wasn't as frugal as I would be perhaps now cost 20 pounds. You know, you would just dish them out You'd smoke in the pub. I mean, can you remember those just like literally sitting around. I used to work in a pub where I'd work in this kind of island in the middle of this pub. And so everyone around could smoke and so I was I was in tune in like this mist of smoke for probably about five years. digress, we all remember that waking up at the morning with steak and play with a very Oh, thankfully those days have gone to to do to do to the government's help. Funnily enough, I have a quite quite strong inspiration that's driven by Douglas chardee. Do you know Douglas Jardine is Oh, no. Who's Douglas Douglas Jardine was, was a was an English cricket captain in the 1930s. He was he was especially famous for the body line controversy so he took any of these cricket team out to Australia when Australia had the world's best batsman Don Bradman and who ended up with a with a with an average of 99 and no one's got close to that. But he took a team out there and with a bowler called Howard Larwood asked. I asked the bowler on the bowlers to bowl bounces and deemas at brabbins head. But But I could talk about cricket for a long time. But the important point about Douglas Jardine was that he was beautiful neckerchiefs pleted Cotton trousers and gorgeous white flannel cricket shirt. So he's a he's a strong inspiration of ours. And especially because I love cricket so much. I mean, there's obvious ones Miles Davis, he's very power casual. Didn't really wear denim very much. You know, soft trousers, relax shirts. Mick Jagger, of course, in in the 60s again defines a style that I love which is sort of loud, dishevelled tailoring. So another really big example of that is Richie in the Royal Tenenbaums. That's, that's a big inspiration. Karen patch the costume designer there. And then recently Julian Schnabel who's an artist, again, mixes tailoring with casual in a very sort of haphazard but but but gorgeous and delicious way. And then, also another movie that stands out is Godfather two, and the way for Shido. Dressed in dress did not really but but really the overall style is it's casual and tailoring mixed together and I like to think of it power casual is some dishevelled tailoring. And Douglas Jardine was, was was one of the first exponents of that of mixing casual and formal to create a Laotian and relaxed. But but still SmartLook Nice. Well, as soon as you mentioned bodyline, bowling, then that came that everything came flooding back about Douglas Jardine. So the story and I'm sure you noticed when we went over I think to Australia and and we started bawling out their heads beam is like you say, and Lao would caught one of the cricket one of the Australian batsman and pretty much knocked him out cold he had to go off with like a broken cheek or something. And then the new batsman come in, and instead of apologising to the batsman for bowling at his head, Jardine indicated to the field to go left, which means we are now going to be bowling bounces. And there was like a big kind of sign in the crowd at that moment where the whole field of the team went to the left hand side, because that meant we're going to be bowling at your head and the only thing that you can do is kind of swat it away to that side where we'll be there to catch you. But we were ruthless. We were absolutely ruthless. We were we I mean he was he was a scurrilous man Jardine and and laws of cricket were changed as a result of his tactics of how helmets no helmets. Were just bowling with bowling to kill you basically is what? Yeah, the number of fielders that you're allowed behind leg on the leg side behind square, that that rule was changed as a result of Douglas Jardine because his you've intubated he he was packing the leg side field close in the leg slip Add three or four others on the leg side. And now you're only allowed to to behind, behind leg on behind square on the leg side. And you should think about how crazy that was to go in and bat without a helmet with people bowling that ball out your head, anyone that's faced a cricket ball and gets hit by any part of their body? Well, you know, we'll know how much it hurts. And then me people have died on the cricket field wearing helmets. And you've had the likes of Steve harmless and who comes in at 90 miles an hour or Steve bodily harms. And shall we say, and still, Bowles Ponting hits him in the head and he takes a helmet off and he's got a bloody undercut on his I mean, so you can still get the ball through the helmet, even if you're bowling with a helmet on. I digress. But thanks for taking memory lane. Nick, I know you've got a heart out. And I've really enjoyed talking to you about cricket, about the power of casual clothing, especially your influences think you're doing the Lord's work over there with the brand. I love the idea of basically having the the upcycle cotton and recycled fabrics, you know, we got to be very conscious these days of what we're doing and where we're buying our clothes. And people can check it out name london.com the place to go. And that certainly london.com Yeah, where we're working hard to to bring the the emissions of our shirt down which we think we can with looking at the dyeing process. And yeah, just yeah, check it out. Any feedback would be approved stuff and at the moment we're selling pre order, and then stock is arriving in throughout November in December and and will grow from there. And if anyone has any original black hands clothing as well get in touch with Nick because there'll be collector's items now. Alright Nick, great talking to you and talk to you soon. Wow, how about that. Thank you, Nick. I could talk to Nick for hours, mainly about cricket. But do check out name London name london.com is the place that you go and also check out the menswear style site menswear style rocoto UK where we'll put all the show notes plus more articles on lifestyle, fashion, sustainability, etc. You want to come on the show tell us about your brand tell us about your journey. Then you can email us here at info at menswear style dot code at UK and until next time

(Cont.) Nick Reed, Founder of Neem London / Modern Sustainable Style