Meet Joh from That Thing

Joh Rindom is the one-man-band behind Stokes Croft’s intrepid fashion hub, That Thing. From a stall in St Nicolas market, to today’s bright and airy premises in Bristol’s cultural hub, the journey hasn’t always been easy. We caught up with Joh to find out how she’s built the brand we see today, overcoming a testing law suit to develop a retail space for her own line of That Thing luxury streetwear, while also providing a platform for up to 65 designers.

So how did it all begin?

I came from Denmark to study fine arts at UWE in 1999, but I always had a vague idea of wanting to move into fashion. I went to a school where we didn’t have to wear uniform, so it was a great opportunity to make my own clothes. I started doing commissions for friends when I was about 14 and continued to do so throughout university, all just through word of mouth. I formed my original brand name after my two family cats Butchi and Gosmos and met my co-founder Louisa Jones through mutual friends. She had a small stall at St Nick’s market and I started selling my wares in there and gradually jumped on board. We put our heads together and realised we could do something much bigger and better together. That became Shop Dutty, our first store in Stokes Croft which opened in 2008.

How did it work in the early days?

We initially started out selling our own brands and a handful of others, as well as selected pieces of vintage clothing and jewellery. That eventually grew into what we wanted it to be, a platform for up and coming designers.

Have you seen a lot of coming and going around you?

Some things have come and gone, some are staying, but in any economic climate it’s a challenge; you have to lay your foundations really tight, have a watertight business plan, be prepared for changes like increases in rent. We’ve grown with Stokes Croft, everything we do in-store, but also the fact that we’ve been able to move to bigger brighter premises. We’ve only moved down the road, we used to be where Emmeline’s is now – they have the best grilled cheese sandwiches, proper doorstop sourdough bread.

Was it a tricky move?

It was, but it was a lifestyle choice. If you thrive and are looking after your own happiness you have more to give, it was important for us to have that. Before, we had an office in the basement, and now we have a bright upstairs office space. I basically run every aspect of the shop from here: design, PR, social media, HR, accounting. A few things I’ve learnt on the job, like accounting, but I’ve learnt that the skills I had at the start were enough and I’ve just built on those.

So what about the name change from Shop Dutty to That Thing?

During the shop move we were in the midst of a two-year law case, with claims to do with copyright and use of name. We had no choice but to take the case, otherwise we would have lost immediate use of name and we may as well have declared ourselves bankrupt. It was like living in a limbo land. Two months after moving into the new shop we lost the case and were given three months to change name. Yes, we could have thought up a new name during those two years, but we didn’t for one second think we were going to lose it, and we didn’t want to think about admitting defeat. It was tough, three months to change everything, branding, bank account name, insurance documents, on top of paying all our own legal fees. That Thing was a lightbulb moment. It felt like it was staring us in the face, fresh, upbeat, doesn’t take itself too seriously, a bit cheeky, has longevity and not ‘genderfied’. Louisa left the company shortly after the rebranding, that’s when ‘one-man-band’ sprung into action, and I’ve managed the business since.

How do you go about creating a collection?

To start with I get my brushes out and start drawing, I think about logos, what I want to reuse, if I need to pull anything new out. It’s not all about splashing logos, it’s about creating a solid collection. I want people to be able to dress top to toe without looking silly, without every piece looking like a statement piece. I’d say they’re luxury streetwear, wardrobe staples.

Who makes the clothes?

Sometimes I use a seamstress, a lot of the prototypes I make myself. Some things like t-shirts and hoodies are blanks, I find high quality ones that I like and want them to be part of the collection. I’m very lucky to have a brother who has a screen-printing company. He helps me no end to create a bespoke collection and have a bit of fun with logo placements and stuff like that.

How do you choose designers?

Since opening the shop back in 2008 we’ve always had an influx of people coming to us, in-store, out and about, even on a night out. We always get people who literally barge into the shop with a bag of stuff to show us. I do have certain things that I like to see from a person before taking their brand, the aesthetic for example. How well it’s made is the other top priority. You can have brilliant ideas, great textures and colours, but if it’s not high quality I can’t take it. What I can do is have a conversation with that person, look at how I can help them with ways to improve, and then they can come back and see me in six months. I’ll also ask them about the realities of being a designer, we are looking to nurture talent, I don’t mind being that link. I’m quite happy to tell people how they can improve, then they often come back. I often advise people to try and make it on an online selling platform first, to test the market.

You talk about being fashion conscious, something many businesses struggle with even when equipped with significant funds. How do you manage it? And what does it mean to you?

It’s open to interpretation to a certain extent, it’s thinking about where your clothes come from, and who you support. The business is very much curated by myself, and I am very conscious of who I pick as designers. I’m not for fast fashion. I want to nurture the creativity in Bristol and give back opportunities within the business to the community, offering work experience to local school kids and teaching what I know. We support up to 65 independent designers in Bristol, and we don’t sell fur, but we are not perfect. I am very open to conversations with people in the shop about aspects we still do want to improve on when we are more financially stable and can make more choices. Plastic carrier bags are next!

Stokes croft now has a hub of independent retailers, who supports this? Is being here a good place for an independent retailer because of the community around you, or is it thanks to action from the council?

In very few other big cities across the UK do you have such a vibrant but also struggling community right on the doorstep of the city centre. There is big scope for creativity here, but more could be done by the council and politicians to help what’s going on here. Sometimes I feel like Stokes Croft is a little fort. We protect ourselves, but it’s the vulnerable people here that the government need to help. We have organisations like the PRSC (Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft) and Chris Chalkley there does so much to clean up the area and revamp the artwork; keeping things fresh and keeping people thinking about politics and the social layers we’re surrounded by every day. I think there should be more funding and support for people who want to make Stokes Croft better. I’m not for gentrification, I don’t think the people who’ve built Stokes Croft up to what it is now should be pushed out by rent, but at the same time I am 100% for change. I think as a society we move quite slowly because it takes people a long time to adapt. Change is good if it’s positive and supportive.

So what’s next?

ASOS, we’re set to have our vintage section on their marketplace within the next six months.
45-47 Stokes Croft
0177 924 9990

Photos by Pippa Cole

Meet Rebecca from Veras Copenhagen

How did you develop the concept of Veras?

My great desire to create Veras came from working in the fashion industry previously – seeing how trends came and passed by and how everyone (media, bloggers, companies) were so focused on pushing new products out and making lots of money without thinking about the environment. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to prove how secondhand fashion could be just as stylish as new products, making sustainability fun and fashionable. I’ve always been a huge second hand consumer, but I had a really hard time getting rid of my non-branded and high-street clothes on the existing second hand platforms. User-to-user platforms take a lot of time, putting up clothes and writing to other users without any guarantees of selling. Second hand shops were also really picky with brands. They take at least a 50% charge to sell them and I ended up having a lot of clothes left that I didn’t sell. Last was the flea markets that at that time were only seasonal from spring to fall and again were very time consuming. The prices you could sell your clothes for were always very low.

Also, I saw a huge potential in creating a service that was not there before. I tried to look at existing ones and turn the disadvantages into a service, to give the possibility of getting rid of everything and getting value for everything up front, without you having to wait for it to sell. Giving the convenient service of  being able to get rid of disposed products was, for me, a huge gap to fill in the market, Especially since time is everything nowadays. Allowing consumers to be sustainable and save resources and money, whilst shopping as much as they like means the world to me. My wish in particular was to “save” all the high street clothing people use and throwaway because of new trends, and bring this into a universe surrounded with both branded clothes and vintage, and show that this can also look “cool”.

Has sustainability always been close to your heart?

I have always been the biggest thrifter I know!  Since I was little I always went to numerous flea markets to buy everything – clothing, furniture – basically everything I could get away with buying used for a great bargain. My father comes from Israel and I remember going to second hand markets and shops there before it was big in Copenhagen. I loved the idea of hunting, the bargain part and especially coming home to my classmates in Denmark with so many unique goodies that even money couldn’t buy, and having it all to myself – which as a pre-teen I loved.

This is also how I developed a passion for having my own flea market focusing on clothes, shoes and accessories, which I started in 2015 called Veras Market. It’s a part of the circular ecosystem I’ve developed, where clothing handed in by members which is of less value or off season/trend, we sell at the Veras stall at the flea market. It’s my belief that everything has a value – as long as it’s sold for the right price and to the right new owner of course.

What’s unique about style and fashion in Copenhagen?

I think in general, Copenhageners are extremely aware of good style and the whole city is stylish, but often the so called Scandi style is a bit too plain and simple for me, and people tend to wear a lot of the same dull colours, which can be a bit boring and not super inspiring. I think that young people especially are brave and fun in their style, perhaps with a more unisex way of styling. Second hand also makes it cheaper and easier for people to be more daring, which I love, and is also a huge mission for Veras – to loosen up those unwritten rules of what is normal to wear and what isn’t, color and style-wise.The older generation such as my grandma, they have a classy style of wearing colours and making every day look like they are going to a big celebration. And I would love for all of Copenhagen to be more daring and dress as if they were going to some crazy party every day!

Have you always dreamed of opening your own business?

I actually have always dreamed of being my own boss, but mostly because I always think I have so many great ideas that I want others to experience. When I was younger I thought somebody should develop an idea bank that people could just buy from, because I always had too many ideas and was a true “optimiser”. I often catch myself several times during a day thinking how to optimise services, systems or certain situations I’m in. I would always overdo simple assignments on my earlier work in an idealised way, because my mind would explode if we had a client and I could see some other opportunities than the one we had already settled on. Now I have the freedom to carry out all my crazy ideas through Veras, which is amazing! But that’s also probably how I realised I was an entrepreneur at heart.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I actually don’t know. It might be all the decisions I’ve always had and still have to take myself for the future of  Veras, for employees and so on. I always have to be the bigger person, looking on the bright side of everything, always believing in the project and motivating everyone around me. At the same time, I’ve never felt so loved as I am by my employees and consumers in developing the business, but I have also never felt so lonely in my life. Luckily, I have built up a team who know about the Veras vision as much as I do, and they help me develop and take Veras to new heights all the time, which is so important in the early years of the company and gives me more freedom and flexibility so I am also “allowed” to have a bad day.

Where do you see the future of sustainable fashion going? 

My dream scenario would be that people who bought newly produced products, would be mocked and shamed like people wearing raccoon fur or eating foie gras. It should become a taboo to buy something new – I know, it’s extreme, right? – but I believe it could happen, as we see how we drain the world from finite resources.

Why are independent businesses (like yours) important?

For many reasons. I think the first is to prove to other (young) people, that its possible to create something, if you have a great unique idea. When it comes to Veras we are important because we have a unique service supporting a more sustainable future and way of consuming on existing resources, which is vital at the moment. I want to inspire people to be more sustainable and to prove that we can make sustainability as cool and hyped as the newest fashion collaborations – I hope others – consumers and businesses – will take it with them and do something in the same direction whether its in their everyday life or in greater business decisions.

Nørre Voldgade 18,
1358, København K

Photo by Tom McKenzie