The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Jon Wallhouse "Sutsu: Crafting Fashion with Purpose and Longevity in a Disposable World"

John Carter
January 10, 2024
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Jon Wallhouse "Sutsu: Crafting Fashion with Purpose and Longevity in a Disposable World"

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Our guest on this episode is Jon Wallhouse, founder of Sutsu, a clothing label with a unique approach to fashion. Jon shares his journey, starting with his passion for design since childhood and his dream of owning a surf clothing label, setting the foundation for his future endeavors at the age of 15.

We cover the evolution of Sutsu, initially launched as an "anti-brand brand" with a focus on positive environmental impact, the challenges faced during the financial crisis, leading Jon to pivot and start a design agency. The resurgence of interest in Sutsu during the lockdown prompted Jon to relaunch the brand online, resulting in unexpected success.

The conversation delves into the tension between affordability and longevity surrounding Sutsu’s ethos and high-quality products.

Overall, the episode provides insights into Jon Wallhouse's entrepreneurial journey, the philosophy behind Sutsu, and a broader discussion on the value of longevity in both products and personal endeavors.

Episode Transcript

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[00:00:19] Gerry: John, I'm delighted to have you on the podcast. We've been chatting for probably a couple of months at this stage, back and forth and email, but for our listeners, maybe start off and tell them a little bit about yourself, where you're from and what you do.

[00:00:47] Jon Wallhouse: I'm John. Um, I guess the reason for us chatting is you got in touch regarding Sutsu, which is a clothing label that I run. Um, I've had Sutsu in my pocket for once about the description ever since I was mid twenties. Going back a bit further than that. Ever since I was a kid, I was drawing and creative and stuff like that.

And I always wanted to own a clothing label, specifically a surf clothing label. So at the age of 15, I set up Scarecrow Surf Clothing, printed my first t-shirt and sold it to a friend of mine. And I guess the bug stuck, uh, I kept, uh, his. His check, because they're showing my age now, his check for five pounds and popped it in a box somewhere, which I've still got somewhere.

And, um, and so that bug sort of sat with me and then, uh, fast forward to sort of 24, 25. And yeah, I set up Sutsu as a, I mean, maybe we'll go into this in more detail as a sort of anti brand brand clothing. And I can explain why, um, but with a positive impact on the environment, that was the kind of underpinning.

[00:01:53] Gerry: yeah,

[00:01:54] Jon Wallhouse: Conversation I had with myself that if I was going to do something, then it had to have a positive impact. Um, uh, we ran that as a standard clothing business for eight years, you know, the wholesale, concessions. You know, outlets that were stocking it and then financial crisis came along, lots of shops were going under and it just became an unsustainable, excusing, excusing the pun, an unsustainable model.

Uh, during that period, people are asking me to do design work, uh, for them. So I set up a design agency, which is still going today. Um, and then. Yeah. Lockdown project. Everyone had a lockdown project and, uh, people were still asking for the clothing even sort of eight years later. And so I thought, why not give it a go, put it back up online.

Uh, and the same day people start buying the t shirts again. And I was like, hold on a minute, what's going on? So, uh, and then we fast forward to now and it's become a, as I was saying earlier, it's a bit of a beast of its own.

[00:02:57] Gerry: yeah. You mentioned this thing, feeding the beast. Um, and I use that phrase as well. Um, and we were talking about just, just to preface everything, like I actually got in touch with John, um, following up on an order that I made on a sweatshirt from Sutsu that I saw. Um, Really liked it and I was emailing saying, Hey, where is this?

Oh, I'm like, I'm wait, I'm over in Ireland. I'm not a bazillion miles away from you. And you're like, Oh, it's getting made. What do you mean it's getting made? I was like, Oh, hang on a second. And I went back into the website and I was like, they make these things by order. And I was like. This is, this is cool and then we started chatting and I was like, Hey, I have a podcast and this is very interesting for me.

Like, you know, and that's why we're here today. Okay, so I said to Jon last night, I'm gonna wear the sweatshirt. I'm not wearing the sweatshirt, but I'll wear it for the intro when I, when I do the recording of the afterward. I love it. This sweatshirt. Okay. So much so my wife was like, you have to stop wearing it.

Okay. I wore it. And this is, I'm not, I'm not, it's not an advertising, by the way, folks, I'm going to put a link to Sutsu. This stuff is really cool, but it's anti brand. Okay. And that's what I bought into. It's not like in your face, uh, kind of branding. It's very subtle and it's high quality stuff. Um, but I do have a question for you on the high quality stuff, the kind of tension that I was mentioned to you before around.

You mentioned a Rode microphone and when you're getting started doing any of these kind of endeavors, like podcasting or music, whatever it is, you kind of want to limit the amount of money that you spend in case you don't fulfill it or continue with that hobby, you end up buying something that maybe in six months time you might throw out versus it would have been more financially beneficial to have bought the microphone that was going to last you for 20 years or 50 years in some of these microphones cases.

What can we do about that tension? Because I see that feeding into your brand, okay, with Sutsu that you pay a little bit more for a sweatshirt and I treat it a lot more carefully. I'm like, okay, this is, you know, it's not super cheap. It's not, in my mind, ridiculously expensive. It's somewhere in, in kind of the middle to the top.

Um, what can we do? Yeah. Is that the right approach to, to really thinking about these things in terms of paying a little bit more and it lasting, lasting longer? Is that

[00:05:41] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah, I think, I think from my point of view, I've always been a believer of, you know, I grew up in a household where My parents would wax lyrical about the fact that they'd owned the same hoover for 30 years or a fridge freezer that is, you know, emitting more emissions than is reasonably suitable, but it's been going for 50 years.

Do you know what I mean? So I guess I grew up in a place whereby. Everything was built to last and this this idea that you know planned obsolescence or of certain items I mean clothing is a bit different in that way.

[00:06:14] Gerry: In the bin,

[00:06:15] Jon Wallhouse: I I think it's fundamentally disgraceful, but

[00:06:18] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:06:19] Jon Wallhouse: In terms of clothing look It's like you said it's a counterbalance between price versus quality so you can I guess what I've done More of recent is except that there is a ceiling to a price point that people are willing to pay for a certain brand's quality and or items and or brand equity.

So by that, I mean, if we were Patagonia and naturally you can add in X percentage more because people are buying into Patagonia and I do question whether the perceived quality of Patagonia is any more than the perceived quality of Sutsu, but because there is that added brand equity of a bigger brand, the garment can be the same garment. Actually, it doesn't matter because you've got Patagonia attached to it. I shouldn't probably use. them as a benchmark. But,

[00:07:16] Gerry: built on Patagonium.

[00:07:17] Jon Wallhouse: um, so what we do is I try and cover in the costing of a product, we, we will take a hit on the margin in order to give a better product to our consumer.

[00:07:29] Gerry: Hmm.

[00:07:29] Jon Wallhouse: That's, that's a personal choice.

It's, you know, there, there will be thousands of CEOs probably screaming at me going, what on earth are you doing? That's a ridiculous concept to make a business successful. But

[00:07:40] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:07:41] Jon Wallhouse: frankly, I wouldn't sleep well at night if I couldn't feel like I could produce a better quality of garment that lasts for 10 years, right?

So the ideal is. We have customers coming back to us and we do have this saying, Oh, look, I've got this, you know, I bought it eight years ago. It's now getting holes in the sleeves. Can you do me another one? And that's, to me, the solution, right? It's the fact that people are willing to, A, wear the designs, but B, wear them out.

You know, excusing the pun, such that the quality of a product's lost. Now, we're not, we do have product, I'm not like, I'm, I am fully transparent, both personally and also in the business, in that we've had challenges with that. We've had Printing issues that have gone wrong. We've got embroidery issues that go wrong.

And part of that model is a bit of a challenge to make that work so that the quality of the project is ongoing and lasting. So,

[00:08:40] Gerry: we had Florian Bailey on the podcast a couple of months ago, who is one of the co owners of Etz, a two star Michelin restaurant in Nuremberg in Germany. And one of the things that he explained was, They, they sell tickets for a dinner that's six weeks down the line. And I thought that was really, really cool because then we're able to be more financially stable and we're able to go back to the farmers and our suppliers and share the risk, okay, share the risk with the, with the ingredients providers.

So people, the farmers who rear the pigs and so forth. Is that a similar model, a similar kind of framework that you're leaning into as well, where you are so transparent to that. You explain these things to the customers that we're trying out a new process or so forth. Tell us a little bit more about that.

If that's the case. Really?

[00:09:36] Jon Wallhouse: to a restaurant in that we're obviously not, we don't have a sort of subscription model in that way because people don't subscribe to buying clothes or they don't yet. Um, I think for us. Our transparency comes in our pricing model in that we will publicize on the website exactly how much each part of the garment costs, what margin we take, what goes to the big bad wolf, the Batman, um, And then what we end up with, what we're left up with in the pot at the end of the day.

So it allows a consumer to go, Oh, okay, well they can make a judgment call on whether actually 48 for a sweatshirt seems like a reasonable value. Because you will naturally get pushback from customers going, Oh, it's too expensive. Oh, I don't think the quality is good enough relative to the price. Oh, I can go and get an H&M sweatshirt for half the price.

I don't see the value in it. And you're like, well, okay, let's just take some context into that. And the context is without calling out certain big brands, they are produced, they are overproducing so much that pressure on the environment is so big. I mean, fashion is an incredibly dirty industry. Yes, we're part of that.

But what we're trying to do in a small way is go, okay, how can we mitigate our impact on a, the environment, be natural resources, see emissions. but also then being able to, without being fully tree huggery about it, you know, educate a consumer, give a consumer all the tools they can choose to make an educated decision on whether they want to buy the clothes.

Now you've got within that lots of different consumers. You've got the consumer that's seen it on Instagram, clicks by, doesn't read any of the information, and then Have a go at you if something's not right or go, where's my sweatshirt? Uh, did you read every product page and or the email confirmation? Yeah. Yeah. But the thing is you can put it in thousands of different places. You can put it on the header of the website, you can put it on every product page, the information in the email confirmation, but people, because they're so busy now, I had a statistic recently that said that In one single day, now I don't believe, I don't know whether this is true or not, but in one single day we as human beings now absorb the same amount of information in one day as we would as a lifetime, even as early as the Victorian times.

So we are absorbing so much. So you take that to someone purchasing a sweatshirt or a t- shirt or a load of clothes, and even with the best will in the world, with all the information on the website, they still don't engage with it. But then you have the other consumers that will fully engage with it, and then they will start to. Look at it, feedback on it, give you information on it, tell you in reviews how good it was or how bad it was. You know, like, so you've got that.

[00:12:31] Gerry: yeah. Invite your podcasts

[00:12:34] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah. Yeah. Well, exactly. See, we wouldn't be here otherwise, would we? Um,

[00:12:38] Gerry: there

[00:12:38] Jon Wallhouse: but like,

[00:12:39] Gerry: John, about the fashion industry being incredibly dirty, okay? I have a limited understanding about what you mean by that. Um, and I'm, I like to think I'm pretty well read, but I'd love to hear your perspective on what you mean by that. Squeaky

[00:13:01] Jon Wallhouse: there are lots of angles by it and by no means am I sort of a, sorry, what was that? Squeaky clean. Well, no, I wasn't going to say that, but fair enough. Uh, I think any business. within fashion isn't squeaky clean, but what you can do is you can provide the consumer a better option, right? And that's what we're trying to do.

I think the problem I've got with Is over consumption fundamentally the consumer and it doesn't have to be fashion every industry is Fueled by the consumer's need which therefore in turn creates businesses those businesses in turn need to create profit In order to create profit they need to produce product in order to produce product.

They need consumers. So it becomes this very

[00:13:47] Gerry: Feed the beast.

[00:13:48] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah, feed the beast and this might be the name of the uh, name of the podcast to feed the beast um, but in fashion, the problem is is that most Traditional brands will overstock. So what they'll do is they'll go, Okay, we've got... a new design, we are going to buy a hundred thousand, a million units.

Now, how many of those million units do they end up selling?

[00:14:12] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:14:13] Jon Wallhouse: But also what, what impact has those million units put on the environment? Because they've had to farm it. They've had to fact, you know, make it in a factory. They've obviously supplied, you know, all the other bits that go with it, all the cotton, all the zips, all the buttons, everything else.

So there's lots of stuff going on there. Then they've got to ship it from wherever else is in the world. Then they've got to store it, the electricity and everything like that. So I won't name the brand, but many years ago, a friend of mine worked for a large global brand and his job was to go and basically his first job in the door was to go and clear out 12 million, pounds worth of dead stock that was just sitting in two warehouses in a country doing nothing. Now if you take that as one brand and you do it across every single brand that we know of, there will be so much wastage and that's the problem, right? So our point about may making to order is that if we can at least make to order, it means that we're not, we're not, we don't have a warehouse. We don't have extra electricity.

We don't have any utilities. We're not holding dead stock. We're not going to put that dead stock to charity or burn it in a hole in Africa, you know, whatever people choose to do with their stock. So, I guess that's, that's fundamentally the fashion industry. But then you add into that issue, you know, the treatment of workers, workers fair wages, you know.

And I, interestingly, like I will always respond to the naysayers. Like if I see something or someone's calling us out on Facebook or Instagram, I'll take the time to write back to them, but I'll write back to them in a considered way. And they were, the argument was around whitewash, whitewashing, um, which is obviously a term that I hadn't heard of until they used it.

And I was like, what do you mean by whitewashing? And they were like, well, basically as a Western brand or Western society, you are using third world country people to make profit fundamentally. And that's quite a hard challenge to push back on because fundamentally, in some ways, they're right. you know, we are using people on lower wages to provide products so that we can sell and, and or make a profit.

The way that I would argue back against that is actually, well, for us, as Sutsu, you know, we not only provide a fair wage, so we are, you know, we are joined into a foundation that provides a fair wage, but also all the other stuff we do alongside that, whether that's planting two trees for every order, we offset, we double up, Double offset all carbon emissions we give we commit to 20 percent of our profits going to charity, etc, etc Look, it's not for me to sit here and sort of promote the brand But the argument that you have against all of these people is well actually hold on all of these views are fair and right But they do not take into the context of the bigger picture and the bigger picture is actually Brands doing good are actually a positive benefit to the environment because actually they without them existing You wouldn't be able to deliver charitable funds, putting forest back into the, the world, whatever it may be that you do.

So yeah.

[00:17:39] Gerry: So let's talk about um, the business model behind this. Okay, so where are the products getting made? Just, just for transparency,

[00:17:48] Jon Wallhouse: uh, we have two factories currently, one in India and one in Bangladesh. Um, both

[00:17:55] Gerry: how do you maintain the fair, the fair wages for

[00:17:58] Jon Wallhouse: so those factories or suppliers are well established suppliers that have been, uh, accredited for a long time. So we, like, it's a funny thing. So. any kind of this certification thing

[00:18:12] Gerry: the B Corp? Are you part of

[00:18:13] Jon Wallhouse: no, yeah, we're, we'd be crop certified.

We're climate, we're soon to be climate neutral certified. We have our supply chain accredited by a third party that does all that accreditation bit for us. Uh, well, we're actually accredited by two other parties as well. So the thing with that, I'm sure you've heard this statement, greenwashing.

[00:18:32] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:18:33] Jon Wallhouse: So quite often we'll get an email going, where are your clothes made?

What are you doing about the environment? Or something like that. So you have to go through this whole process of saying, well, okay, these are the certifications. These are accredited by these various people because anyone can create a certificate. But what you have to do is These days you have to be much more, um, we just have to be much clearer on what those certificates are and where they come from and how they've been validated.

[00:19:05] Gerry: Mm hmm.

[00:19:06] Jon Wallhouse: Um, and so yes, look, we do have factories in India, we do have a factory in Bangladesh. Our factory in India is 90 percent reduced emissions.

[00:19:18] Gerry: Okay. So,

[00:19:22] Jon Wallhouse: to a, your sweatshirt had 90 percent less emissions than an equal example, for example. So yeah.

[00:19:34] Gerry: With that in mind, um, talk about B Corp, because some people aren't aware of B Corp. I know when I was in Australia, it was a lot more prominent.

[00:19:44] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah.

[00:19:44] Gerry: B Corp, my, are they based in Australia, actually?

[00:19:47] Jon Wallhouse: they're American originally. So interestingly,

[00:19:50] Gerry: What does B Corp mean?

[00:19:53] Jon Wallhouse: mean, fundamentally in its very basic form, it's about doing better for people and planet. So the idea that everything that you do within the business is. taken into consideration, both the people that work for you, the third party workers that work on behalf of your organization and or the planet

[00:20:15] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:20:16] Jon Wallhouse: as well.

And it's not a final, like once you become B Corp certified, it's not a finality. So you have to prove each year that you're continuing to do that. You also have the opportunity to improve your school rating based upon, uh, implementation implementations you do. But what B Corp does for us is it's. It's a, it's a part, a rite of passage in that because the brand is the way the brand is, we need to have the, the stamp, I suppose, the stamp of approval from B Corp, but it's also an ability for us to be able to stop the naysayers. Now, like you said, it was quite big in Australia. It's quite big in the UK and the US. In certain European countries, it doesn't really have a huge amount of status yet.

[00:21:07] Gerry: Mm,

[00:21:09] Jon Wallhouse: But, and also there are, there are some challenges with it. There are some people that feel that it is a negative. Like I, like it's weird for me to say that, right?

Because most people are like, Oh my God, it's amazing you've got a B Corp. And your immediate reaction is, Yes, well, it is a good thing, but... With this, uh, they class it as debanking,

[00:21:32] Gerry: Right.

[00:21:33] Jon Wallhouse: um, which is basically putting pressure on people to, uh, only work with certain types of the demographic of society. Now you might believe them to be conspiracy theorists, but it's interesting that no matter what you do to try and be better as a brand, there are always those that will.

Once I have a pop and whilst B Corp is fundamentally a power for good, it is, it is interesting the experience that we have interacting with consumers or potential consumers. And, you know, we are very proud to be called B Corp. And my experience of B Corp today is that they put no pressure on you to. have certain demographics within your business. Yes. There are points given if you are female founded or you are minority founded, which I guess is their way of trying to help those lesser communities. Get a foot up in it because you know commercial business is fundamentally run by the same type of people

[00:22:41] Gerry: Absolutely. Can I ask you a little bit more around, um, just going back to that feeding the beast thing. Um, as the organization and Sutsu grows, I know you're running a design agency alongside it. How do you prevent it, um, from not getting too big? And how do you resist the temptation to Keep growing, keep feeding the beast.

Like, are there some sort of values that are personal or organizationally driven to ensure that that doesn't happen?

[00:23:14] Jon Wallhouse: I think I'm permanently mindful of the fact that the industry as a whole is a is a is a damaging industry So therefore no matter what we do if we are growing then our impact is also growing on the environment And so therefore how do we offset that against the consumer need for new products?

[00:23:34] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:23:36] Jon Wallhouse: I guess you're never going to stop the consumer, that consumer beast, in that you're constantly feeding the beast.

Um, but I guess being able to control it, it's a very fine line between, obviously there's a purpose to this, which is growing, because we have to. Otherwise it becomes a... sort of their lifestyle brand. Yeah. Very good way of describing it. And the lifestyle brands are all well and good, but they don't, I can't do good with a lifestyle brand.

What I can do is if we can grow it in a considered approach, then actually it doesn't mean that we're going to do any more impact. It simply means that we will pay our dues in a different way. So that's part of why we're becoming climate neutral. Uh, and this is an interesting topic where the. further into it or not, but the way that climate neutral works is that you will pay into, uh, a fund based upon your carbon emissions.

Now at a very top level, you do a, you know, you do a data chart, you do an Excel spreadsheet, you give all how many units you've sold, how much average, you know, emissions, each product is, then they give you a total and then you offset that with a, uh, you know, with a, with a payment to support local causes, you know, whether that's supporting local farmers, planting trees, planting mangroves, planting, you know, uh, beach grass, whatever it is, you know, but what's interesting about that is because our, one of our factories is 90%.

carbon neutral, we're not getting, we're not getting the benefit of that. So I'm actively paying into a fund 90 percent more than I would or should do, but that is my way of counterbalancing our growth. So I, it sits with me in a way whereby, yes, I'm overpaying, but actually that will allow, this doesn't allow me to sleep at night because I'm still producing the garments, but because we're doing as much as we can to mitigate the impact on the environment, if I'm overpaying into that, into that fund or into the beast, then all, all well and be it.

[00:25:58] Gerry: Yeah, so imagine if, um, you go on Dragon's Den, okay, you're on Dragon's Den and you have, I think they're one of those, uh, Theo, um, he has some sort of fashion brand, he's part of the fashion conglomerate, um, and they say to you, look, you know, we can make a load of money, we can stock Sotsu.

[00:26:20] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah.

[00:26:20] Gerry: possible for you?

With the current business model, the way it's situated in the way it's positioned to, to do those kinds of things

[00:26:29] Jon Wallhouse: Uh, no. And I'd

[00:26:30] Gerry: on this scale,

[00:26:31] Jon Wallhouse: to. Yeah.

[00:26:32] Gerry: you choose not to,

[00:26:33] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah. So coming out the back of a traditional model as we did, I had a conversation with a, uh, one of our bigger retailers a couple of years later. And he, he was sort of saying, well, you know, we did discuss trying to help and, you know,

[00:26:50] Gerry: the brine.

[00:26:51] Jon Wallhouse: taking the brand on and stuff like that, but it was too much risk.

And at that point I was like, Yeah, it makes sense because, you know, you've got to buy stock, you, you know, you have the sampling season, you have the stock season, you know, all of that sort of stuff. And he said, but look, you know, if you can find a way. To bring the brand back, we'll always stop it because it did really well for us.

And this was, this was in a meeting for another brand. It was a food and drinks brand, but we were having this discussion and it was sort of on the side whispering to each other. And I was like, well, the only way I'd do it is no risk.

[00:27:25] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:27:25] Jon Wallhouse: no risk, I mean holding no stop. So I said, the only way it would work is if you commit to a certain order value.

And we will produce to order. And that's where that whole concept came out of. So,

[00:27:36] Gerry: Okay.

[00:27:38] Jon Wallhouse: So it came out of a conversation around a meeting table about a completely different brand. And actually, any stockist that we do have, and we don't have many, um, is based on, on that proviso. In that you will buy, and you will pay for it up front, and then we will, we will make to that order.

And that is as simple as

[00:28:01] Gerry: Yeah, and that makes sense, like, you know, so it allows you to be able to do those things reduces the risk, which probably results in a lower price point for the customer, because you're not including that in the cost, so to

[00:28:15] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah, yeah, exactly, yeah.

[00:28:16] Gerry: um, on that point, the transparency piece, uh, I absolutely love it. I remember seeing it a year, a couple of years ago at a conference in Toronto, where a hotel in Newfoundland.

Uh, it's on an island off the coast of Canada, Newfoundland, um, where they basically have a price tag that shows exactly where the cost of the hotel and, you know, what's going on, what profit is. What is that and why is that so empowering for the consumer to see those things? I'd love to get your perspective on it.

[00:28:50] Jon Wallhouse: I think for me personally as a consumer and also a brand owner is that Sounds probably a bit negative, but I think we've been hoodwinked too long

[00:29:01] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:29:01] Jon Wallhouse: I think you know, even if you take an iPhone or a piece of clothing

[00:29:07] Gerry: a road microphone.

[00:29:09] Jon Wallhouse: As we were discussing earlier, the margin that people mark up on, ironically, is based upon the size of the business that they get to and because they're holding stock, because they've got more staff, because they've got bigger premises, because they've got all of these other things that are feeding into the beast, as we're gonna use this phrase, they actually, the price ends up going bigger, so that margin has to be big enough to accommodate.

[00:29:38] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:29:39] Jon Wallhouse: added values. The benefit for us is that because we keep our operating costs quite small and quite linear in a way whereby it doesn't, you know, like we could sell five times what we're selling now and fundamentally the team wouldn't have to grow. Significantly to feed that It allows us to keep quite a competitive price point I think in terms of transparency piece because I find myself going off track quite a lot. Is that like if I want to buy a piece of clothing?

I want to know how much it's cost, right? So I don't want I I, and this is an interesting part of this. I recently bought a hoodie from a brand that I admire a

[00:30:21] Gerry: Who? Tell us!

[00:30:22] Jon Wallhouse: I'm not saying it because the rest of the conversation, the rest of the conversation doesn't go too well. Um, so I bought it and I've been thinking about it for ages and, you know, I was in a, in a location on this in Cornwall and it was available there.

And I said to my other half that, look, I, I, I really wanna get this, but it's really expensive. And she was like, well, why don't you get it? And so I was like, fine, I bought it and I put it through one wash. I didn't tumble dry it. And honest to God, I know I roll my sleeves up and I wear them like this, but having had it awash, it gone from, it shrunk that much.

So on my wrist it shrunk that much. And this was a 90, 100 hoodie.

[00:31:01] Gerry: What?

[00:31:02] Jon Wallhouse: And I was like, I can't wear it again. I just, it's, it, it makes me look like I'm wearing a child's hoodie. Uh, and the, the hens went and stuff like that. And so I guess I got really frustrated. I get really frustrated with a brand overcharging so that you like, if you walked into the shop, it was probably one of the more expensive hoodies on in the shop. And yet the quality of it and the size shaping and all of that sort of stuff isn't worth the money.

[00:31:31] Gerry: Yeah,

[00:31:31] Jon Wallhouse: And so I'm like, how do they justify putting such a high price tag on a product that is so bad?

[00:31:37] Gerry: yeah,

[00:31:38] Jon Wallhouse: And, and look, we, you know, I reckon if there were consumers of ours listening to this, that have had print peeling issues, that we've had that issue, they would argue, well, I could say that about Sutsu, but what I could argue back to them is, if you get in touch with us, we will always replace it.

And we will ask you to give that product that is damaged to a home, local homeless charity.

[00:32:00] Gerry: yeah. So why was that hoodie, um, what was wrong with it do you think? Was there a quality issues regards to the sourcing of cotton or how it was manufactured? And also did you, did you reach out to the manufacturers and let

[00:32:17] Jon Wallhouse: No, I'm very bad at that. I sort of give them a one chance and a write off straight away. So would I buy from that brand again? And the answer is no, but then that's not fair because I'm not giving the opportunity for them to resolve it, especially considering what I just said about Sutsu and, you know, replacing them.

Uh, in terms of the quality. I don't know. I think part of it is the shape that they chose. So, you know how they've designed the hoodie. So the arms are maybe too short. I don't think I'm a gorilla, but maybe I've got really long arms. I don't know. But, uh,

[00:32:50] Gerry: Do you think there's, um, a way to, like, how can someone counteract that? So if they're going to buy an expensive hoodie that they know it's going to last for a long time? Because most people, like the counter argument of what I was saying earlier, like if you're starting a podcast or getting into music and you buy the cheaper microphone, and they take that advice and say, like, I'm going to buy the more expensive hoodie because it's going to last forever.

Is there a way for them to kind of, uh, understand that this is actually quality? I know we're talking about Sutsu and, you know, I can testify this stuff is, is lovely. Um,

[00:33:24] Jon Wallhouse: Thanks very much.

[00:33:25] Gerry: worries. Invoices in the post. Joke folks, I'm not getting paid for this. Um, but how do, how do consumers know that, uh,

[00:33:35] Jon Wallhouse: Well, they don't fundamentally. Yeah. Fundamentally, they don't. They help. They, there's a risk. There's a huge risk. Uh, and to your point, I was thinking about it, that cheap versus, you know, cheap you buy twice. I can't remember what the saying is, but cheap you buy twice. Which is so true, right? You will, but how do you know as a podcaster or a musician or an artist or a designer or whatever you may choose that you're going to continue that profession or continue that hobby?

You're not going to go out and spank a thousand pounds on a Les Paul Gibson. When you've only just started playing guitar, you're going to buy an Epiphone or you're going to buy, you know, a cheap, cheap one. So it's hard, but, and it comes back to that same point of consumerism, isn't it? Consumerism feeds the production beast and also the commerciality beast.

We are our own worst enemies in that we are, but then, but then people will argue like we have no sales on various social media platforms saying, well, sustainability, the only way to be sustainable is to buy second hand. And again, back to my point earlier is that's the context that they're, well, it's the context they're missing, right?

So without buying into new stuff, you don't allow the opportunities for businesses to be better. You know, whether that's us who do various things for environment and charity or, you know, other brands that do stuff just simply because they choose to, but

[00:35:00] Gerry: On that whole kind of the guitar piece or the microphone piece, there's always a resell potential. Like if you're buying a car, you can resell it. A guitar, you can resell it. Where are the opportunities there for products? Like clothing, um, expensive garments to be resold, because I know some business, I think H& M now on the high street, L.

A. to bring your clothes back and then they get recycled. I don't know much about how true that is.

[00:35:30] Jon Wallhouse: and that's the thing, right? Yeah.

[00:35:31] Gerry: Yeah, so like the authenticity and like there's a really, I mentioned Joe McLeod who wrote a book about ends.

[00:35:39] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah.

[00:35:39] Gerry: of the life cycle piece, there's a really, uh, great argument there at improving the transparency about these things, like what actually happens, is there a case there for, um, bigger brands to be able to take the product back and then offer a, you know, uh, an opportunity for the people to buy secondhand clothes?

[00:36:00] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah, I mean, I think there's two things there. There's one, that full closed loop system, which, uh, or the recycling of the fabrics. So, uh, there are people or there are companies in play that do that. A bit like your point about H&M, I, I query the authenticity of, and, and all the transparency of if X garment was sent to Y supplier, recycling supplier, where does it end up?

Where does the cotton end up? And how do we, how do we validate that journey to make sure that actually it ends up back in the place that you need it to place? But also interestingly, how much does that emission impact the environment? So it's all well and good being able to

[00:36:44] Gerry: Do that.

[00:36:44] Jon Wallhouse: Recycle it, but what is that emission value, um, on the environment, and does that whole process of it being shipped there, produced, then shipped somewhere else, then produced, then back to you, actually create a higher emissions value than actually purchasing a organically farmed...

[00:37:06] Gerry: It counteracts everything.

[00:37:07] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah. And it's a very hard line to justify, validate, authentic, authenticate, and all those sorts of things. I think for a consumer, there is, there are startups starting to look at ways whereby, uh, I actually am a part owner of another brand, which is a recycled sunglasses brand, and they approached that brand saying, look, we run a sort of facilitating app that people can put their products.

Onto, to then up, upcycle, and then they get a discount off the next purchase from you.

[00:37:41] Gerry: Oh, okay, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:37:42] Jon Wallhouse: So there are, you know, like, you have to believe in the human will of wanting to be better.

[00:37:49] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:37:51] Jon Wallhouse: only by that will we be better, I think, personally.

[00:37:55] Gerry: mean, well, what I really love about, um, the work that you're doing here is you are a change maker. So like, it's not about following the status quo, following the blueprint and how to, uh, create a brand and selling it and growing it. You are making a change for the better. Um, obviously it's not 100 percent perfect, but very few businesses are.

There's this underlying purpose behind what you're doing, and it's really, really refreshing to hear and have the transparency with somebody like yourself who's doing these things. So what's the future looking like for Sutsu, um, where do you want to take the brand and what are the ambitions for you personally, uh, to see that through?

[00:38:43] Jon Wallhouse: I mean, I think it's restricted in some ways by the ability to grow without having a negative impact on the environment. So the counterbalance of those two things have to be considered no matter how far or how big you want to grow the brand. Now. You know, in the world of consumerism, in the world of money, in the world of protecting your family or yourself in the future, there is a part of me that's obviously looking to exit the brand

[00:39:14] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:39:15] Jon Wallhouse: at some point.

Now, the problem with that is that you have to find the right person to, or people, to entrust the brand to. Uh, and the, like I, I heard about the difference between, I guess, the western way of creating a brand and the Japanese way of creating a brand. So Japanese, you know, we look about a 10 year process.

So we look for a brand's lifespan to be 10 years. Japan look for it to pass generations. So it's almost like what does the brand look like in a hundred years and how, how do we get the brand to keep going in its current trajectory? for another hundred

[00:39:56] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:39:57] Jon Wallhouse: And that's, I guess, maybe where I will inevitably try and get the brand, is

[00:40:03] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:40:04] Jon Wallhouse: if I'm not the custodian of it, at least the groundwork that I've done, the brand ethos, the design ethos, the quality ethos, the transparency, whatever it may be, continues going forward, whether I'm involved or not.

And I think that's the challenge that I have.

[00:40:22] Gerry: okay. Well, look, um, I'm a huge fan of the stuff. I put a link to, um, Sotsu in the show notes. And what I, I guess for people who are interested in service design and people out there who are interested in Business design. This is a really good case study for, for people to look at, you know, kind of, you can hear the ethos and the purpose coming through in John's voice and why and how he's doing these things.

So, John, if people want to follow you, I know you're, you're kind of growing on, on Instagram, which, by the way, I saw, Louis Theroux is wearing that. Before we hop off, do you want to tell us a little bit about, um, there's an interesting story there that we, we spoke about before, uh, I'd ordered it and then I saw that Louis Theroux was wearing it and I was like, okay, cause I'm a huge Louis Theroux

[00:41:17] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah. Aren't we all?

[00:41:18] Gerry: How did, how did this all come about? Like, you know,

[00:41:21] Jon Wallhouse: So like, like in the modern day of, uh, influences. You know, you would desperately, it's weird, right? Sorry, I'm sort of rambling, but, um, I wouldn't have ever put Louis on the list. Right. So if I'd put the top 10 people that we wanted to wear the brand,

[00:41:38] Gerry: Gerry Scullion.

[00:41:39] Jon Wallhouse: it was, you were number one. Uh, but the thing is, it's not because I didn't think of him.

It's just because I didn't think of him as a brand. wearer because I just didn't expect it. So did nothing. Like, suddenly someone on Instagram went, you do know Louie's wearing your clothing? And I was like, what? Like, if you could choose any person to wear Sutsu, he was perfect, even though I hadn't thought of him or would have put him on a list.

So it's this really weird conversation around. Well, actually he's the perfect person, but why the hell didn't I think of him? But anyway, so we obviously got these photos in, we've got people commenting on it. And so I sent a newsletter out going, I don't know how the hell this has happened, but Louis is wearing our clothes and this is, this is the product and this is.

Because people kept sort of trying to, trying to find it. Yeah. I mean, if you go, if you Google it back and when it happened, there were people on, I can't remember that, um, mother's network thing, you know, like mummy's thing. We've got quite a big famous one. It's like a forum and someone had actually put.

Louis, Louis wearing this top. How do I find the brand or something like that? Yeah, and so like people had had this conversation on this mum's mum's net. Yeah, I think that's what it's called I know like I'm sorry, this is just weird. So anyway, we put the newsletter out we put any so someone got in touch on Instagram DM dust and said oh that was me.

I'm his, uh, sister in law. I gave it to him as a secret Santa present.

[00:43:16] Gerry: Oh,

[00:43:17] Jon Wallhouse: And that was it. And so all it was that she gave it to him, he loved it. And he chose to wear it on his Spotify podcast thing. And I was

[00:43:25] Gerry: yeah. When he was launched on his podcast, the

[00:43:27] Jon Wallhouse: couldn't ask for anything better. So we simply said to this lady, Do you think he would accept a present to say thanks?

We just want to send him a few other items. And with no expectation of him ever wearing anything again, but it felt like the right thing to do. He was kind enough to wear it on a, quite a big press tour. And so we thought, well, why not? And so we sent, she said yes, I'm sure. Uh, we sent him a few t shirts and then ended up.

being on the GQs, and we're like,

[00:43:57] Gerry: don't believe you, really?

[00:43:59] Jon Wallhouse: yeah, yeah. And it's

[00:44:01] Gerry: What?

[00:44:02] Jon Wallhouse: and interestingly, we had a conversation with someone else that works in TV, and it's a presenter, and he said the reason it works is because of the anti brand thing, in that you don't have any brand logos, you don't have a massive, you know, Sutsu across the chest, and because in TV and film you can't wear anything with a branded logo on it, it works.

And so, and so that's kind of I guess how it came about.

[00:44:25] Gerry: Another person who, when I, when I first saw the brand, I was like, actually, this is kind of like very Ben Howard, you know, Ben Howard, the,

[00:44:32] Jon Wallhouse: It's very, I've followed him for years. Yeah.

[00:44:35] Gerry: just seems like part of that whole kind of Cornwall surfing, um, kind of culture that kind of seems to live around there. Like, you know, so if anyone's into Ben Howard, Make sure you go to the Sutsu website, put on Oats on the Water or something in the background.

You'll get an idea of the brand that I'm trying to, trying to paint the picture of. But look, John, I'm a huge believer in what you're doing and I kind of hat tip to you and challenging the conventions on how you go about business. It's great. Um, I know I've already put the request into my, to my wife for Christmas. A few more items, maybe one or two more. I don't want to be buying too much stuff. I really watch what I buy from a brand perspective. And it's really good to know that, um, you know, there's a consciousness there about, uh, how you're running the business. So keep it up. We mentioned, I'll put a link to your Instagram on, uh, in the show notes and also to the website as well.

But if there's anything else you ever want to come back on and talk about, please just let me know.

[00:45:42] Jon Wallhouse: Yeah. I would love to. Yeah. Whatever you'll help me. If I haven't totally made a hash of this one.

[00:45:47] Gerry: You've been brilliant, Jon. Listen,

[00:45:49] Jon Wallhouse: right. No worries. Take it easy.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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