Stranded in the UK after the pandemic hit in March 2020, and unable to return to his job in Australia, Jonathan Simpson from Penwortham set up his own clothing label. Inspired by his love of travel and traditional tattoos, That Life Clothing was born.Advertisement
Jonathan combined his experience of working in screen printing and digital marketing to launch the brand, which sells in Preston and worldwide, as well as helping to raise money for Derian House. We wanted to find out more.
Tell me about the story behind That Life, what inspired you to set it up?
The initial seed of That Life started back in 2014. I graduated from UCLan in 2013 with a degree in Care, Community and Citizenship and didn’t know what I wanted to do. I worked in Greece in the summer, but once I returned I missed the sun. That winter I decided to move to Malaga in Spain. I worked in a hostel, taking people on wine and tapas tours and making the beds.
You meet a whole range of people when working in a hostel, from all walks of life. A group of people I kept meeting were pilgrims who had walked the Camino De Santiago, then come to Malaga to relax. I’d never heard of it before so after many chats with people over glasses of Tinto, I felt inspired to walk the Camino de Santiago myself. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a 500-mile walk through France, over the Pyrenees then through the north of Spain to Santiago.
In March 2014, my friend Ed and I took the walk and I also did it in aid of Derian House raising over £1,000 for the charity. You’re averaging around 20km a day walking, a lot of the time walking on your own so you have a lot of time to think. By the end of the walk, I decided I wanted my own clothing brand, and to travel the
By November 2014, That Life was up and running. I teamed up with my friend Dan who helped run the website and it was ticking over. My designs then, as they are now, were inspired by my hobbies and interests such as travelling and traditional tattoos.
One of my other goals was to travel the world, so in March 2015 I moved over to Australia for a year. A few months into Australia, I realised I couldn’t give the brand my attention and travel and work at the same time, so That Life was put on the back burner.
By November 2017, I moved to New Zealand and got a job that taught me all about screen printing. This set off the fire in me again, so I created a new That Life design and started to slowly create myself clothing again.
After a year in New Zealand, I moved back to Australia. I was working my way up in a sales company, looking at getting sponsored as I was on a student visa studying digital marketing. I came back to the UK for my friend’s stag do in March 2020. Boom, what happened? Before I could get back, the borders to Australia had closed and I was stuck here, presuming it was for a little bit of a long holiday. I thought I’d be back in Australia by July. Obviously, that wasn’t the case.
I lay in bed for a week; I didn’t know what I was doing and had horrible thoughts. It was a mental battle with my brain, a very surreal experience. There was only one real option, I started creating designs again. Once I started designing, I didn’t have any physical products so started dropshipping from a website that would host your designs print and send them out for you.
I was working online 16 to 18 hours a day for a good four months, using the knowledge I learned from the digital marketing course to grow the brand. Friends laughed at me; you know where you see those memes about working all the time. My life was sat on the computer, but I knew this was what I had to do.
Fast forward a few months and I used the money I made from dropshipping, bought a heat press, moved into my friend’s unit, and now it is a full-time job. I print all the products there myself, made to order, so I don’t have dead stock lying around and it helps to be as sustainable as possible.
What range of products do you offer?
I offer a whole range of products – t-shirts, jumpers, hoodies, children and baby t-shirts, A5/A3 prints, dog bandanas, shirts, phone cases, bottle openers, jewellery, and a whole heap of accessories.
The designs are really unique, who creates them?
At the start, I created them myself, but I’m very particular so now I use around five different artists around the world. I curate the ideas and they’ll then bring my ideas to life as they have a good understanding of what I like.
You handprint your products in-house, how do you manage to do it all?
Well it was great for around the first six months being in the unit, but as the brand has grown and the orders keep flying in, it has felt more like a job. I’m just there printing and not being able to put my energy into continually growing the brand. I do all my admin from 6.30am to 9.30am, then I’m in the unit till around 6pm printing orders.
The next step would be hiring someone on a part-time basis to help with printing, so I can focus on other parts of the business and continue to take it where it’s meant to be.
What do you enjoy about running your own business?
I enjoy innovation, having an idea, going with it and it being successful, or if it hasn’t been successful, thinking about why not and how to change it for the future – I just love always learning.
Out of my clothing brand peers, I was the first to launch one of my designs as an NFT (a unique digital artwork), and the customer would also receive a t-shirt with the design on it too. They have the product digitally and physically then. Where people would think, ‘Is this a good idea?’ and wait for responses. I just went and created this and said, ‘Here it is if you want one go and buy it.’ I’ve now seen a few others follow suit because of this, which is cool.
You work with a local embroidery business, tell me a bit about that.
I have a range of products that are embroidered. The usual route to save costs for a clothing brand is to get your embroidery made overseas. I wanted to keep it local, so then I know the quality is great, and I don’t have
products sitting in boxes for months waiting to be sold.
I found an embroidery company in Blackpool called M&M Embroidery. I have a really strong relationship with them. They support a heap of small businesses so they’re very person-centred, have no minimums on orders, and help you if you’re unsure and have questions about the design being embroidered. I’ve been working with them for around 10 months now and I’ve no complaints, just good times seeing the designs come to life!
I saw that someone had your brand message ‘That Life Live It’ tattooed on their arm, that must’ve been cool to see?! What is the story behind the message and the tattoo?
Oh yes! This was really cool and only happened a few weeks ago. Leading up to Christmas I’ve been showcasing the products in the Fishergate Shopping Centre, something I’ve been really wanting to do for a while. Actually seeing and touching the products in person helps customers know how good the quality is, put a face to the brand and also I love explaining the designs to them and seeing reactions.
This person Sophie walked past the stand and looked at the products, gave us a follow on Instagram, and sent us a message asking about the meaning behind That Life and our motto That Life Live It. I explained that I’m very passionate about positivity, and only intake positivity and exhale positivity in my life. It’s too short for negativity. Live the life you want to live and spread the good vibes only. I used to have negative thoughts and feel bitter but I’ve moved away from that mindset.
This really resonated with Sophie, and she popped back and bought some products. A week later she came over and showed us this tattoo. I was mind blown; even I haven’t got a That Life tattoo yet! So that was really cool and I’m glad the brand has that real positive energy and inspired Sophie and other people too.
Could you give us a sneak peek into what you have planned for 2022?
I’m going to delve more into the NFT space, we’re only scratching the surface of what can be done with them and the Metaverse so I’m really looking forward to learning more about that. I’ve booked on to a few tattoo conventions selling the brand so we’ll be at the Tattoo Tea Party in Manchester and the Liverpool Tattoo Convention too.
I’m going to carry on working with Fishergate Shopping Centre. I’ll be there the second weekend and last weekend of every month on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, giving the people of Preston their alternative clothing needs. We’re also going to carry on doing The Makers Market in the summer months in Preston. I’m sure if more opportunities arise, I’ll take them with both hands! We released a few new designs on Boxing Day too and in spring/summer there’ll be new designs coming.
Where can people view and buy That Life clothing and products?
Every month I donate a selection of products to the Derian House Children’s Hospice Shop in Preston city centre, you can get those products there for half price and I like to share this as it helps the charity and the children too. Online you can find us at thatlifeclothing.co.uk. If you want to keep up with our socials give us a follow on Instagram. If you’re into NFTs you can purchase the That Life NFTs at OpenSea.
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