There are three facts about us that are, pretty much, self evident. We like to shop, we like to look good and we’ve a heart as big as…well, you know the rest.
So what if we put them altogether? What would happen if, in our midst, someone had a bright idea to mix it all up and create an ethically sound clothing label, producing stuff that, y’know, we might actually want to wear?
Enter James Woods’ System of Thinking imprint – a year old this month, and proving that we don’t all want to dress up as Grecian nymphs or Gangsters, but, instead are more than happy to wear our hearts on our sleeves.
Combining a tightly curated collection of T’s, a community hub and a raft of events (including an excellent short film season, currently running at Wolstenholme Creative Space) Woods isn’t about pop up shops and pile-’em-high aesthetics – his commitment to the cause may well see his label lasting longer than marble wash denim and cork heeled slingbacks: and, we’ll wager, longer than Paltrow, Miss Bono and Emma Watson’s on-trend launches. The signs are encouraging – 12 months into a double dip recession, he’s still here.
“I’d fancied starting a clothing label of some kind for a few years, and, as I was interested in socially conscious issues. When I started planning the project, I had a business choice. Sell one ethical t-shirt or two standard t-shirts. It turned out to be the simplest decision ever…”
Having worked for Sound City and studied music technology in his event-filled past, Woods naturally gravitated to producing stuff that looks good when you’re in Bold Street and Ropewalks, rather than Playground and Newz (his heroes Enter Shikari proudly modelling one of his range on their last tour – above).
“It’s just been a matter of learning what people want from a clothing label, how to put together a quality design and how to make it unique as possible,” he says of his crisp polo shirts and eye-catchingly graphic T-shirt prints.
So they pass the ‘look good’ test. What about the journey from source to street hipster?
“Sourcing is definitely the toughest aspect of the whole project! I have a supply of the most ethical garments on the planet, it’s still a slightly limited range for now but it covers what we will need for a while. It’s just about finding good ethical companies who strive to be sustainable, fair to their workers and understand the values of System of Thinking,” he says.
The hard work, and principles, are paying off – with orders coming in from here and far – including customers in Canada, Australia and Indonesia.
“We’ve developed a strong community, and it’s resulted in people connecting across oceans, it’s pretty special!”
Next up, Woods plans to get the word out more around these parts – his cinema nights are part of the process, but blogs, art, apparel, events and gig nights are all on the radar. His mission, though, remains the same: ethics first, profits second. A difficult line to walk in tough times, when a Tesco two quid t-shirt seems increasingly tempting, and the need to keep your customers at all costs is forcing other businesses to make tough decisions?
“No, definitely not. Times are tight at the moment and while that’s a widespread problem, I’m not sinking to the level of some brands, cutting corners for more cash. It’s simply not an option to cut any of System of Thinking ethical values,” he says.
Liverpool, Woods believes, is the perfect place for his high minded enterprise. We know about hardship – and even in our leaner moments, our charitable nature never wavers. Neither, for that matter, does our wilfully independent streak.
“I was walking around town the other day putting up posters for the first of our film screenings and I was reminded of just how diverse a city we are. We’ve more than our share of individual souls hanging out. Of course there are groups of people who seem to dress similar such as your ‘hipster’ and your ’emo’ labels, and Desperate Scouse Wives certainly did nobody any favours – but we’re lucky to live in such a multicultural place.”
It’s heartening to hear Woods talk: he embodies all that we hold dear. And all that’s worth fighting for.
“Liverpool is a great place, still holding on to independents too such as News From Nowhere, Bold Street Coffee, Resurrection. It’s just sad to very see the march of corporate outlets eating up both the city and Bold Street in particular. We should try to keep that street independents only, before it’s too late.”
With Woods’ singular vision, we’d say the city’s looking good for a few seasons to come.
Film Night: If A Tree Falls
31 May, Wolstenholme Creative Space