A final blog announcing our departure from the world of retail, penned for the first time by THTC co-founder and MD, Gav Lawson.
Please be aware there will be delays with retail orders due to Covid-19. We have reduced the price of almost everything on the THTC website by 30% during the pandemic but, as the advice from the government is to stay at home I will not be visiting the post office unless it is safe to do so. Thanks for your understanding.
We realise this is an extremely worrying time, and with the risk of putting a damper on an already depressing time, I’m afraid we come with sad news. The time is approaching for THTC to close its doors. After a limited edition run of some of our favourite designs, we will be discontinuing our retail range and THTC, as you know it, will be no more.
The last 20 years has been a wonderful, exciting, learning curve. We’ve won and been nominated for loads of awards, been ranked the UK’s most ethical streetwear brand and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with so many inspiring people, including a lot of my heroes.
The simple fact is that the cost it takes to run an affordable, ethical streetwear brand whilst still holding true to our values has become near-on impossible.
I wanted to take this opportunity to explain a bit more - for our fans, our producers, suppliers and for everyone who has made THTC what it has become.
Where it all started…
When Dan Sodergren (Great Marketing Works), my brother Drew (Vermillion) and I decided, in 1999, that we wanted to bring hemp to the high street, none of us knew anything about fashion. But we knew about hemp, this wonder material with thousands of uses. Our idea was simple: save the world, one ethical, sustainable t-shirt at a time.
Pictured: THTC Co-Founders Dan Sodergren and Drew Lawson in a hemp field.
Since then our journey has taken us through the A-Z of street wear and back again. Our first efforts were rough, plain garments. Difficult to source, difficult to make. But as our popularity grew, with the help of some of the most influential artists in the business, we started to wear our hearts on our sleeves. Our values became our brand and our style was born.
It’s safe to say it’s been 20 years of ups and downs. At our peak we employed eight people, before the recession, a fire, two burglaries and finally bankruptcy brought us back down to three and, at times, just one. We’ve been cussed, applauded, we’ve argued, we’ve cried and we’ve kissed and made up… and we’ve produced a hell of a lot of t-shirts.
Pictured: Gav with THTC co-founder Dan Sodergren at our first ever trade show.
At the same time, I’ve seen so many small independent brands come and go. The truth is fast fashion is still our sad reality. If you’re ethical and affordable, it’s very difficult to compete with big brands that continue to pollute, waste and exploit. Our high streets are still full of them.
So, back to Danny, Drew and I and our sustainable dreams. Naturally we thought that when people became aware of the vast and positive impact of hemp for the planet, industry, governments and the media would use their collective powers to encourage its growth and to promote and use it wherever they could.
How wrong we were. Hemp remains demonised by the corporations that run the planet. It's expensive. It’s rife with import issues. It means our t-shirts can cost up to 10 times more than a cheap cotton or polyester tee. (But we still love this magical sustainable plant.)
At the same time, we have been running THTC as an ethical brand in an industry almost devoid of ethics. It’s a sickening truth that the thirst for cheap fashion has come at a human cost. Slavery wasn’t abolished, it was privatised.
A history of ethical production
So, time for us to face facts. Our fabric is expensive, because we refuse to use wasteful, harmful material. We pay our garments makers in China a fair living wage, because exploitation of workers disgusts us. We use organic dyes that don’t pollute the planet and print and embroider our garments in Tottenham (with the wonderful Fifth Column), because it’s important to support other local small businesses. It’s safe to say that our most recent staff members and I have been doing it for the love, not the money, for some time.
Pictured: Visiting one of our production facilities in China.
We’re hugely proud that our brand combines sustainability, ethics, environment and politics, not just in the way we do business, but in the design of our stock. In doing this, and keeping our prices reasonable, we’ve managed to break through to a demographic who aren’t your typical eco warriors – British males (sorry guys!)
But all of this comes at a price. The reality is that we can’t compete with the likes of Primark and Sports Direct who can sell three pairs of socks for a fiver or a t-shirt for £5 or less.
Put simply, THTC’s costs of product are too high to enable us to make the margins we need to survive. With the weak pound and rising production costs we could up our prices. But we don’t want to. We’re not a ‘premium’ or ‘luxury’ brand and we don’t want to be.
I am in a position now where I need to be realistic and reconsider the future of the brand.
This year THTC will, instead, become a private-label company. I still have a great relationship with our hemp and organic cotton suppliers so I intend to produce a range of blank hemp t-shirts and accessories for bands, charities, cannabis businesses and the like. The range will include hemp t-shirts, socks, wristbands, caps, beanies, visors, lanyards, wallets, belts, key rings, aprons, flannels and towels, amongst other things. If you’re a brand with merchandising requirements then give me a shout.
Pictured: The future of THTC - hemp products for greener business solutions.
I’ve already moved out of the warehouse and am currently running THTC from home. I’m not employing anyone full time anymore, although Ashwin is still providing legendary social media and e-commerce help in his spare time whilst holding down a nine to five elsewhere (thanks Ash). I’ve just taken delivery of a final range of new designs and we’re fully stocked. But, once this range has gone I don’t intend to buy any more stock.
Pictured: Ashwin with THTC supporters / friends Skinnyman and Beatfox.
Call to action
In recent years we have seen the world waking up to ethical production, sustainability, environmental politics and positive change. I’m proud to be a part of that, but we’ve got a long way to go.
It’s easy to become irritated with Extinction Rebellion and the disruption they cause, but it is important to realise that we are in the middle of a global environmental crisis that has been looming for decades, and have not done enough, as a species, to halt or slow it. It’s simply not good enough, and the next generation deserves better. It never needed to be a crisis. We have let it become so.
I’m not saying it’s easy to become an eco-warrior overnight. But small changes add up, and don’t have to be a chore:
I would like to send heart-felt thanks to everyone who has contributed to THTC in any way over the last 20 years, from our customers to our supporting artists. THTC is and always has been YOU, our community and family. We would have been nothing without you.
The below is just some of the hundreds of shout-outs I could make. There are plenty of others. I’m so sorry I couldn’t cover you all!
Firstly, to Ashwin, my most recent employee who ran our social media and retail store, as well as being all hands-on deck for so much more. I think it's fair to say I wouldn’t have lasted this long without you. From teaching me so much, to personally creating the Corbyn tee and campaign, your passion and support will stay with me forever. Ash has moved on now but still dedicates time to helping with social and the store. Thank you thank you thank you.
To my brother Drew, who came up with the THTC vision.
To our first ever employee, Bushra Burge. A shining star in THTC’s formative years.
To Paul Yuille. You managed production. You managed us. How did you manage?
To Nick Jones who saw us through bankruptcy. Thank you for your kindness.
To Radski. You made THTC look rad! Gorgeous photography. Gorgeous human.
Pictured: Ashwin (left) and THTC's photographer Radski (bottom centre) with UB40.
To Anya from Triptika Studios and Phil of SkatePal. Your filming and video editing skills have really helped make THTC look sexy.
The video below that Anya filmed and produced for us from Boomtown and Shambala festivals really sums up what THTC is all about.
To all the fantastic staff that have come through from work experience schemes and government programmes. You worked for peanuts so we could pay our garment makers. A massive thank you, with a special nod to Monika from Striding Out and our warehouse boss lady Maja.
Producers and suppliers
To our Chinese suppliers who have been with us for 18 years – from the hemp farmers to the ladies who sew our garments. Your work is hugely appreciated by so many people around the world.
Artists and musicians
I have been lucky enough to have worked with and been supported by many of my childhood heroes from Rodney P and Skitz, Benjamin Zephaniah, PhiLife Cypher, Task Force to Woody Harrelson, Redman and Method Man to Mickey Finn & MC GQ. A few of our favourite videos featuring some of THTC’s supporting artists can be found here.
THTC has produced over 200 ranges of ethical merchandise for bands, charities and businesses, from The Foreign Beggars to UB40, Beardyman, Refugee Community Kitchen, QPR in the Community and Maharishi, to name a few. Find out more about our history of collaboration here.
Thanks to Will Power, who ran the majority of THTC’s insanely fun music events over the years, including our 14th birthday party at Brixton Jamm, below.
Above: Video filmed and produced by Justinas Milius Miliauskas.
THTC would never have been possible without our unbelievably talented designers. Everyone who knows THTC will be familiar with the legendary Mau Mau, who has produced over 50 designs for us over the course of 18 years, Big love also some of our other favourite designers including Fybe:One, Herse, Simon J, Low Class, The Tribes, Oberon, Roo, Design Lab, Pawel Kuczynski, Foon, Gibla 74, Ed Hicks, Lottie Goodman, Devolution Design, Fingerfood, Carrie Reichardt, Thayan Rich, Wishya, Gary Hodges, Sam Coxen, Tom Walpenstow and Ink on Skin.
Pictured: Mau Mau painting 'Clown Town' on the THTC office wall during the London 2012 Olympics. (Photo by Radski Studio.)
One of the hardest things about writing this blog has been naming some of THTC’s supporters. I could reel off literally hundreds of names of people and organisations that have supported us and shown us so much love. You know who you are, and you know I love you all.
Click here to see some of the other artists that have supported THTC.
To each and everyone of you who has purchased anything from THTC or helped us out on our festival stands or at our trade shows. YOU are THTC.
And finally, a very special mention to my Mum, who has been ever supportive of what I have tried to do and has never told me to pack it in and get a ‘proper’ job.
Thank you all for being a part of THTC. Please do check out the last of the available stock on the website. We’ll keep it open until we run out. After that, we’ll be seein’ ya….
We'll leave you with our recent 20 year anniversary mix from the legendary Daddy Skitz.
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At THTC we try and minimise the amount of plastic we use on a daily basis, whether that be choosing biodegradable packaging to send orders or the type of ink we use on our t-shirts. We all have the choice to reduce plastic consumption within our own lives and make conscious choices to switch with alternatives.
Today we’re going to talk about how we can reduce our own plastic consumption for beginners. Some of you may already be doing these steps, and if you are, please reach out to us to let us know how you’re getting on, or if you want to try to reduce down, please continue reading.