An Interview Thomas Geissmann and Marion Poirier of TSHU
Thomas and Marion founded and own TSHU, an elegant and committed handkerchief. Ethically made in Montreal (Canada), the TSHU handkerchiefs boast unique, bold, colourful designs and a distinctive shape, to make a gesture for the environment — in style! Each hanky is handprinted with silkscreen and hand sown by our skilled seamstresses before being embroidered with our brand — a seal of elegance and commitment — and having its corner neatly folded and sown into place.
Thomas and Marion.
Photo: Jimmi Francoeur
Tell us about family background — geography, culture, language, and religion.
Marion: born in Montreal (Canada) from a French-Canadian family, with roots in Quebec, France and Nova Scotia! Raised in a musical environment, by early music afficionados, with a sister and a few goldfish. Initially French-speaking, disciplined in English (learned fast).
Thomas: born France from a French-Canadian mother and a father born in Argentina in a French family. Raised in the South of France away from everything and moved to Montreal at 11.
Tell us about your story — education, prior work, and so on?
Marion: Creative, passionate and determined, whenever Marion has a new mission, she immediately dives into that new universe and makes it her own. No matter how unlikely the project or ambitious the strategy, no task is too daunting and she tackles everything she handles with contagious enthusiasm. In the past, Marion has managed cultural organizations, worked in communications, has coordinated big and small events as well as been part of teams which have launched large-scale projects. Now, she dreams of changing the world, one handkerchief at a time!
The TSHU handkerchief
Father, step-father, lover, “retired” lawyer and entrepreneur. I’m currently Vice President Revenue and leader in all commercial missions relating to marketing, customer experience and partnerships for Busbud. I’m also co-founder of TSHU, the company that has put handkerchiefs back on the map. I love winning equally as I hate losing. I’ve built powerful teams, generated financing rounds of over $10 million and secured important partnerships on almost all continents.
Tshu cotton handkerchiefs
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
Summer 2013, Marion and Thomas travel to Europe to introduce their son to the family abroad and come home with an unusual legacy: Uncle Robert’s old embroidered hankies.
Back in Montreal, Marion and Thomas rediscover the pleasure of cotton handkerchiefs: yes, to relieve their noses, but also to wipe their baby’s cheeks, the water on a bench park for her, the milk froth in the moustache for him.
They start dreaming… Of handkerchiefs, of consumption, of the environment, of the desire to create new with the old. Finally, a vision takes form.
What would happen if the handkerchief had a unique shape? If it was modern, distinctive, even funky? What if a tree could be planted for each handkerchief sold? What if the handkerchief could become a fashion accessory capable of making a difference?
TSHU was born.
What seems like the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
Future generations need a lot more than that but it’s a start. In order for us to build a better world, every step of the value chain needs to be more sustainable. Given the modern importance of how we look, the fashion industry is clearly a huge driver of consumption. The increasing multiplicity of ethical and sustainable companies has to lead the way of the industry. The signs that he cannot go on for long are there.
TSHU Enzo (solo)
What seems like the importance of fair trade?
Same thinking — if we want to build a strong tomorrow, our people and our planet have to be taken into consideration, every step of the way! Consumers need to be more exposed to the real value of things.
What seems like the importance of a (relative to the country) living wage?
Egality of chance brings peace to nations.
What makes slow fashion better than fast fashion?
It’s a way of life! Make better choices, invest in quality, not quantity, invest in our people and our planet. It’s not only better, it’s the only way to go if we want to create a better world!
What seems like the responsibilities of ethical and sustainable fashion companies in the prevention of climate catastrophe?
This is a collective responsibility. Among clients, vendors of any industry.
The Brundtland Commission Report described the need for sustainability. In that, we, the human species, need to meet the “needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” for long-term sustainability. Does this seem correct to you?
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition invented The Higg Index. It assesses some products’ sustainability throughout the products’ lifecycle. The European Outdoor Group and the Outdoor Industry Association developed an index of products’ impacts on the environment throughout their lifecycle, the Eco Index. Large regions with serious attempts to implement standards and quantitative analysis of sustainability of products throughout their lifecycle. What seem like the importance of quality tests, or metrics, such as these and others?
In our case, it is rather simple given that our products are by design meant to reduce consumption. There’s a need for fewer standards that are more easily understood by the public. This always needs to be accompanied by great quality of products.
What is TSHU?
Leading the handkerchief’s great comeback. Helping people consume less — and better. Selling high quality stylish and useful hankies. Ethically made in Montreal. Our TSHUs have travelled to some 200 cities in 20 countries and counting. What’s more, for each adopted TSHU, we plant a tree.
TSHU Jacqueline (left) and Eugene (right) — (duo)
What inspired the title of the organization?
Contraction of atchou in French and tissue in English.
What are some of its feature products?
High quality organic hankies with modern designs both for adults and for kids.
What are the main fibres and fabrics used in the products?
Cotton sateen and lawn.
Who grows, harvests, designs, and manufactures the products of TSHU?
Our hankies are made locally in Montreal Canada, for us to ensure of the working conditions.
Water use in production is an issue. What is the importance of reducing excess water use in the production of fashion?
Will the fibres and fabrics for the products from the company biodegrade?
What is the customer base — the demographics?
30–50 years old men and women from North America and Europe. They are eco conscious and are looking for ways to contribute to the environment in style.
Did someone mentor you?
We had a few mentors — yes.
Have you mentored others?
We’re always ready to help others and offer advise from time to time.
What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?
It’s a feel good business. We bring quality products made with love and pride in our city to households. Doing so, we know that our clients’ consumption habits will be changed for the best. What else to ask for? We also decided to not raise any funding for this business in order to remain free. Free of our decisions and free to grow at our own pace.
TSHU Jacqueline (duo)
Any other work at this time?
Yes, we both work for other startups.
Any recommended means of contacting, even becoming involved with, you?
Of course! email@example.com
What seems like the greatest emotional struggle in business for you?
Fear of failure.
What philosophy makes most sense of life to you?
Thomas: time runs and we walk.
Thank you for your time, Marion and Thomas.
You can visit TSHU online at their website.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.