Stranded in the UK after the March 2020 pandemic and unable to return to work in Australia, Penwortham’s Jonathan Simpson has created his own clothing brand. Inspired by her love of travel and traditional tattoos, That Life Clothing was born.
Jonathan combined his experience working in screen printing and digital marketing to launch the brand, which sells to Preston and around the world, while helping to raise funds for Derian House. We wanted to know more.
Tell me about the That Life story, what inspired you to put it together?
The initial seed of That Life started in 2014. I graduated from UCLan in 2013 with a degree in Care, Community and Citizenship and was unsure what I wanted to do. I worked in Greece in the summer, but when I got back I missed the sun. That winter I decided to move to Malaga, Spain. I worked in a youth hostel, taking people on wine and tapas tours and making beds.
When you work in a hostel, you meet a whole range of people, from all walks of life. One group of people I kept meeting were pilgrims who had walked the Camino De Santiago and then came to Malaga to relax. I had never heard of it before, so after many chats with people over Tinto drinks, I felt inspired to hike the Camino de Santiago on my own. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a 500 mile walk through France, the Pyrenees and then northern Spain to Santiago.
In March 2014 my friend Ed and I did the walk and I also did it to help Derian House raise over Â£ 1000 for the charity. You average about 20 km a day walk, most of the time alone, so you have plenty of time to think. At the end of the walk, I decided I wanted my own brand of clothes, and to browse the
In November 2014, That Life was operational. I teamed up with my friend Dan who helped run the website and it worked well. My designs then, as they are now, were inspired by my hobbies and interests such as travel and traditional tattoos.
One of my other goals was to travel the world, so in March 2015 I moved to Australia for a year. After a few months in Australia I realized that I couldn’t give the brand my attention, travel and work at the same time, so That Life was put on the back burner.
In November 2017 I moved to New Zealand and got a job that taught me all about screen printing. It kindled the fire in me again, so I created a new That Life design and slowly started recreating clothes for myself.
After a year in New Zealand, I returned to Australia. I was working my way up through the ranks in a sales company, seeking sponsorship as I was on a student visa to study digital marketing. I came back to UK for my friend’s bachelor party in March 2020. Boom, what happened? Before I could return, the borders with Australia had closed and I was stuck here, thinking it was for a long vacation. I thought I would be back in Australia in July. Obviously this was not the case.
I stayed 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 to create designs again. Once I started designing, I didn’t have any physical products, so I started dropshipping from a website that would host your designs, print them, and ship them for you.
I worked online 16-18 hours a day for a good four months, using the knowledge I gained from the digital marketing course to build the brand. Friends laughed at me; you know where you see those memes on the job all the time. My life was sitting on the computer, but I knew that was what I had to do.
Fast forward a few months and used the money I earned from dropshipping, bought a heat press, moved into my friend’s unit, and now it’s a job fulltime. I print all the products there myself, made to order so I don’t have any dead stock lying around and it helps to be as durable as possible.
What range of products do you offer?
I carry a whole range of products – t-shirts, sweaters, hoodies, kids and babies’ t-shirts, A5 / A3 prints, dog bandanas, shirts, phone cases, bottle openers, jewelry and a whole bunch of accessories. .
The designs are really unique, who creates them?
At first I created them myself, but I’m very picky so now I use about five different artists around the world. I select the ideas and they will then bring my ideas to life because they understand what I like.
You print your products by hand in-house, how do you manage to do everything?
Well that was great for about the first six months on the unit, but as the brand has grown and orders continue to come in it has felt more like a job. I’m just printing and I can’t seem to put my energy into continuously developing the brand. I do all my admin from 6.30am to 9.30am, then I’m in the unit until around 6pm to print the orders.
The next step would be to hire someone part-time to help with the printing, so that I can focus on other parts of the business and continue to take him to where he’s supposed to be.
What do you like about running your own business?
I like to innovate, to have an idea, to accompany it and to make it successful, or if it did not succeed, to think about the reasons and how to change it for the future – I always like to learn.
Among my clothing brand peers, I was the first to launch one of my designs as an NFT (a unique digital work of art), and the customer also received a t-shirt with the design on it. They then have the product digitally and physically. Where would people think, âIs this a good idea? And wait for the answers. I just went and made this and I said, “Here, if you want one, go buy it.” I’ve now seen a few others follow suit because of this which is cool.
You work with a local embroidery company, tell me a bit about that.
I have a range of products that are embroidered. The usual way to cut costs for a clothing brand is to have your embroidery done abroad. I wanted it to stay local, so I know the quality is great, and I didn’t
products that have been in boxes for months waiting to be sold.
I found an embroidery company in Blackpool called M&M Embroidery. I have a very strong relationship with them. They support a bunch of small businesses so they are very person-centered, have no minimum orders, and help you out if you are unsure and have questions about the design to be embroidered. I’ve been working with them for about 10 months now and have no complaints, just great times watching the designs come to life!
I saw that someone had your âThat Life Live Itâ brand message tattooed on their arm, must have been cool to see ?! What is the story behind the message and the tattoo?
Oh yes! It was really cool and it just happened a few weeks ago. Before Christmas I showcased the products in the Fishergate Mall, something I had really wanted to do for some time. In fact, seeing and touching the products in person helps customers know how good the quality is, put a face on the brand and I also love explaining the designs to them and seeing the feedback.
This person Sophie walked past the booth and looked at the products, followed us up on Instagram, and messaged us asking what That Life and our motto That Life Live It mean. I explained that I am very passionate about positivity, and that I only bring positivity and exhale positivity into my life. It’s too short for negativity. Live the life you want to live and spread only the good vibrations. I had negative thoughts and felt bitter, but I moved away from that state of mind.
It really resonated with Sophie, and she came back and bought some products. A week later, she came over and showed us this tattoo. I was blown away; even I don’t have a That Life tattoo yet! So that was really cool and I’m glad the brand has this real positive energy and has inspired Sophie and other people as well.
Can you give us an overview of what you have planned for 2022?
I’m going to dig 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 hearing more about that. I booked for a few tattoo conventions selling the brand so we will also be at the Tattoo Tea Party in Manchester and the Liverpool Tattoo Convention.
I will continue to work with the Fishergate Mall. I’ll be there the second weekend and the last weekend of each month on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, giving the people of Preston their alternative clothing needs. We will also continue to do The Makers Market during the summer months in Preston. I am sure that if other opportunities arise, I will take them with both hands! We also released a few new models on Boxing Day and in Spring / Summer new models will be arriving.
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 Town Center, you can get these products there for half the price and I love to share that because it helps ‘association and the children too. Online you can find us at thatlifeclothing.co.uk. If you want to follow our social networks, follow us on Instagram. If you like NFTs, you can buy NFT That Life on OpenSea.