Interview with Sutsu
Posted January 29, 2011on:
I recently got the opportunity to interview Sutsu‘s lead designer. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sutsu, it is an environmentally conscious boardwear brand based in the UK. I don’t regularly participate in any boardsports, but that doesn’t stop me from loving the brand’s products. All of the designs in the shop are quite simple, and something about that is very appealing. Let us now learn more about Sutsu and its lead designer!
I am based in London and am the designer for Sutsu. Although not classically trained in design, I have to some degree taught myself about design and what I want to achieve from it. I screen printed my first T-shirt back in my teens which seems a distant past. I left university with a degree in anthropology, quickly followed by a diploma in sound engineering which led to various jobs including running a couple of bars, so not what you would call a normal graphic background. I did always keep my eye in by having an A5 book and pen in hand so I could scribble when the mood takes me…
For those who are unfamiliar with Sutsu, can you give us some basics about the brand? What do you think sets you apart from other boardwear companies?
Sutsu was set up to create an original design led British streetwear/boardwear brand. It seems our shores are awash with American and Australian imports and we were keen to fly the flag for the UK scene and hopefully make a small mark for ourselves against those larger corporations (classic David & Goliath scenario, although we are yet to slay the Goliaths…)
As well as this we wanted to build a brand that had a positive effect on Mother Earth without being too hippy about it. So in this respect we aim to produce as much organic and fair trade clothing as we can. All our power is sustainable, and even our stickers are recycled. On top of this we are setting up a Sutsu Woodland which will offset much of what we do that damages the environment.
I think I got carried away a little on the previous question, but it is really about the fact that as producers and consumers ourselves, we are accountable for our actions and it should be simple to make the choice to buy ethical and environmental goods whenever we can. There is so much product out there to choose from, so as consumers we should choose products that have a positive effect on the environment rather than a negative one. It is that simple. All purchases should be thought about and the intention of the individual should be to purchase products that the consumer considers to ethically or environmentally positive. Do the research or even just read the label, and we as consumers should be able to get a better understanding of what is and what isn’t good in order to sustain our life as we live it now.
What’s a day in the life of a lead designer at Sutsu like? Do you work with a large team of designers?
The design team is small. Although we do outsource design for specific LTD ranges to other designers. The day is always quite varied, but normally if I am designing garments, I will begin the day by sourcing ideas whether that be photographers, other illustrations or something that sparks an idea. Once an idea for a design comes, I will either scribble a concept in the notebook or start work on the computer and through much gnashing of teeth and hair pulling, start to form a basic concept of a print. Once this is done, I will work on a colour pallette for the print and then start mocking up the print on a template to see whether it works on a garment. Quite a few designs go in the bin at this point as although they can look great in Illustrator on a white background, they can change dramatically on a garment and become lost or awkward or simply rubbish… The day normally ends round about 6-7pm sometimes with a successful design under the belt, but sometimes simply a large bin on my computer. The brain never switches off though, and quite often I will wake up at 2/3am with an idea in my head for the next day, which I guess makes up for the hair pulling from the day before…
What normally happens is that I will churn out lots of designs along various themes and also just obscure designs and then put them on a style sheet. Then I will go through them with 1 or 2 others (as well as some key stores) to get both commercial feedback as well as just other points of view. Fundamentally I have last say, but it is good to get other opinions to see what will and won’t work… Each season you are always surprised at what is the run away print/garment. This season, the Bear print was by far our most successful and we have reprinted it 3 times. Ironically it was the design that took me the least work and I guess maybe that says something about the process. If you try to hard, it really means it doesn’t work as a print and you should leave it.
Do you have a favorite design in the shop?
As I mentioned in the last question, I guess it has to be the Bear because of its success and the doors it opened this season. But I guess the most satisfying is actually just the logo. The reason for this is that it took many months and many logos to come to a logo that could stand on its own but be an amalgamation of both typeface and image, such that although it wouldn’t instantly be recognisable as a word, it would engage people in its obscurity and slowly the logo would become known. I didn’t want to create a logo that was easily read. As the brand grows, the logo becomes instantly recognisable, and it is a discussion piece which is nice.
Have you seen any of your shirt designs out and about? If yes, what’s that like? If no, how do you think you’d react?
For a good year and a bit I was getting texts and emails saying things like “just been sitting in a pub next to someone wearing a Sutsu tee.” The most obscure was a friend of mine was in Scotland in the middle of nowhere and had gone to a public toilets, and the guy that walked out was wearing a Sutsu Tee… It couldn’t be more remote and it was getting frustrating that I hadn’t seen one. But last October I saw someone out and about in one of our hoodies and frankly I was relieved I had finally seen someone. It was a good feeling…
We have gone all college this season. It is a bit of a play on it really, as I wanted to do a subversive college style logo as a way of going against the high street love of brands like F&M and Abercrombie, and once I started I got carried away. I reckon they should go down well as there is no text really, it is simply the emblem design. Along with that, we have some interesting bird prints and some new product lines including walk shorts and flip flops.
I obviously can’t end this interview without asking you this question: What’s your favorite board sport?
That’s a difficult one… I am looking at my Bamboo longboard right now and getting excited about cruising round town when the roads are drier. I haven’t been to the mountains for a few years now and miss that feeling of fresh powder and burning thighs. But one of my favourite thoughts is surfing off the west coast of Ireland (mind you I am very average at surfing…)
Is there anything else that you wish to share with us?
Have a good 2011 and thanks for the interview, it is always a humbling experience.
And that concludes Loving This Tee’s interview with Sutsu’s lead designer. Many thanks to those at the company for making this interview possible! Be sure to head over to Sutsu to check out all the great products, and pick up your favorites today!