After losing a grueling two-year legal battle with the clothing giant ‘Massimo Dutti’ over trademarking rights, the independent Bristol store have come back bigger and stronger than ever following a re-brand and launch party that won the hearts of Bristol folk far and wide. With a new name and a new outlook, Adam from Talking Passions caught up with one half of the ‘That Thing’ duo Joh, to talk about her passion for the store and all the hard work that went into keeping their dream alive.
"I think that people realized with our story, that we were so far out and pushed into a corner by this massive multi-national company, that we had no-where else to go"
TP. "So as a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up and how did you get to where you are now?"
JTT. "When I was a little girl I was always drawing and painting, and doing lots and lots of creative stuff, so I think I always thought it would be really cool to do something with that. I never knew it was going to be something with fashion until I was a little bit older. When I was a tiny little kid I used to want to be a baker, but that was a backwards decision due to the fact that I didn't like sweet stuff and I didn't like cakes. I thought I'd make an excellent baker because I'd never get fat. Laughs. It was in my family too, as my Grandmothers were chefs and bakers."
TP. "Ah nice, you can't beat that baking smell can you when you're a little kid.."
JTT. "Yeah, and I do like cakes now.. it's all good. Laughs. I think the fashion thing came about when I was quite young, probably about ten or twelve. Mum would show me how to make stuff on the sewing machine and I went to quite a creative school as well and was always knitting something, or sewing something, or trying to alter my clothes to make them individual so it definitely started early."
TP. "And look at where you are now, and as an independent store in Bristol you have definitely carved out a name for yourselves with growing support from people like Annie Mac, Gotsome and Eva Lazarus to name just a few, and I know that you actually help support other independent designers through your store too. Can you tell me how important independent shops and designers are in a city like Bristol?"
JTT. "In Bristol we've kind of got it easy.. I'm talking generally, about independent stores, as in Bristol there's quite a few of us. There's everything from St Nicks Market, independents on Park Street and Gloucester Road, around the whole Perry Road area, North Street in Bedminster, and lots of other pockets in Bristol. There are so many independent stores in Bristol and it's really great that they're on the map. That doesn't mean it's easy for an independent store, you've still got to carve out a niche for yourself. We just knew straight away that one thing we wanted to do was to support independent designers and we now have over thirty five of them on our books and at times it might be over forty.. it's quite a lot. We stock different designers in the summertime because of festival fashion. We get maybe ten to fifteen designers who just do that, and they come out of the shop towards the end of the Summer, and we have different things in for the Wintertime as well. Most of them are Bristol based but it's not a complete rule. If we see a brand from London or Brighton or whatever that we really like we'll make room for them if we think they're right for the shop."
"[I] was always knitting something, or sewing something, or trying to alter my clothes to make them individual so it definitely started early."
TP. "Do you find that a lot of the other independent stores help each other out in that way?"
JTT. "Not so much, because what we do is fairly unique in that way. There aren't any other street-ware stores that do it to the extent that we do, or we haven't found anywhere else yet that do it with that many designers. A lot of independent stores will stock smaller brands and things like that but it's slightly different because it has a commercial value. With ours, most of the stuff is handmade with a lot of one-off pieces as well, and limited editions, so it really makes our stock unique and it keeps changing all the time."
TP. "Nice, it keeps it fresh. So the re-brand was a huge hurdle that you've overcome recently, and I know that crowd funding was a very big part of achieving it so successfully. How easy was the process and how does it feel to know you have so much local support?"
JTT. "Obviously in hind-sight it feels amazing to have that much support from friends and family, and customers and further a field as well, but to start out with it was very daunting and we didn't know if it was gonna work. There was definitely a large amount of doubt that was playing on our minds back then. We were like, 'Is it gonna be OK to do this?'. But I think that people realized with our story, that we were so far out and pushed into a corner by this massive multi-national company, that we had no-where else to go. We were either gonna sink or swim and we had to aid ourselves somehow to overcome that, and sadly that comes down to money. The crowd-funder was like a one-time thing, I don't think that any business can generally ask for money off the public, and we're very very grateful to everything that's come to us through that.. but it was definitely a hard thing to have to do."
TP. "Yeah it was, but the hype that it generated.."
JTT. "Yeah definitely, but I mean we're under no illusions of the fact that there are so many important charities out there, and causes and things that people should, and can donate their money too. We often donate to other causes ourselves, but to ask for money for your business is quite.. that's it, that's the last thing you can do I guess, but we had to do that in order to recoup some of the funds. The re-brand and the court case were really expensive so unfortunately it had to be done. But we're very grateful for all the support, it was amazing." Laughs.
"We just knew straight away that one thing we wanted to do was to support independent designers and we now have over thirty five of them on our books and at times it might be over forty.. it's quite a lot."
TP. "Well the workload for the re-brand must have been very demanding too. Can you describe the creative process and workflow when you're coming up with new ideas for it?"
JTT. "Well, that again was something that we had nothing else to compare to when we started doing that. Even when we found out that we'd lost the name I think we were still in denial for a couple of weeks. We were like, 'Did that really happen?' Could it really be that extreme you know? We've really lost out to a company whose name is very different to ours? But then reality hits you, and it's got to hit you at some point I guess. Laughs. We had to then think about changing the name for real. We had thought about it before we lost the case because we thought, 'What if we actually don't get this, what are we gonna be called?!' Nothing had ever come to mind. We eventually came up with 'That Thing', which we put to a team of friends of ours who all kind of work in the creative industries, independent industries around Bristol, and they all seemed to like it as well. It just seemed to be fitting with the shop. And obviously then there's the Lauryn Hill connection as well. It didn't come from that though interestingly enough, we sort of discovered that down the line and were like, 'Oh yeah, of course!' And it really makes sense with what we stand for so that was a happy coincidence. Then the process.. time was against us as well, because we had three months to do the whole re-brand from when we were sat down trying to figure out what to do, to the point where we had to give up our old name. We weren't legally allowed to use it any more, so we had to come up with this enormous timeline to figure out what to do when, when we were gonna need help, how much help we would need, and things like that. We were really really lucky again, we had a great bunch of interns. Some of them had been in touch earlier, some of them had been here before, but we just had an enormous response. We called out for interns through social media and ended up having nine girls in to help us out, so the office was full to the brim with people who were all working on lots and lots of different aspects of the change-over. Everything from social media to event planning, promotion and organization, equipment hire and health and safety.. there were so many different aspects with all of that because we wanted to go out with a bang and celebrate the new name in a bigger style, and also tie that in with the crowd-funder to raise some more funds for the whole thing. We had a big party down at the station and that was really good. We had an amazing line-up and all the interns were there as well helping with decor and it was just amazing, we couldn't have done it without them."
"most of the stuff is handmade with a lot of one-off pieces as well, and limited editions, so it really makes our stock unique and it keeps changing all the time."
TP. "Fantastic stuff. I think it's safe to say your style has been influenced by the late 80's early 90's hip hop scene, as well as the Bristol music and arts scene. Can you talk about some of your biggest influences both musically and in fashion?"
JTT. "Well when my business partner Louisa initially started the shop in St Nicks Market, that was where she mainly drew her inspiration from, sort of 1980's to early 90's Hip Hop, especially the New York scene. And I think we largely still continue with that, maybe more sub-consciously now because it sort of just comes to us, but we always take inspiration from music, and arts, and also popular celebrities and things like that that might be happening out there. We always take inspiration from everything.. life basically. We like to call it lifestyle inspiration, and I think the brand encompasses that sort of lifestyle, of going clubbing, hanging out with your mates, and also casual-wear in that sort of sense as well, and street-wear."
TP. "Finally, What should we look out for over the next few months?"
JTT. "So over the next few months we're gonna reveal the next line of 'That Thing' clothing. We've had the first one already that was very heavily mono-chrome themed with lots of black and white contrasting graphics, and we also had a peachy baby pink that featured heavily, but we're changing up the colours. We're keeping some things going, some of our creations, like some of the T-shirts, they're gonna continue to be available, but we're coming out with new lines so yeah, it's really exciting. One of the things that we really want to achieve with this new name now is that we're putting out a lot more limited editions and short runs of stuff.."
TP. "So grab it while you can.."
JTT. "Yeah, we're working on our new look book and things like that so it's very exciting.. watch this space!"
You can view the original article at http://talkingpassions.com/2016/03/14/interview-15-that-thing-dutty/#sthash.WibafXc9.dpuf
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