12/2/21

Sojo's Josephine Philips on The Importance of Loving Our Clothes

Meet Josephine Philips, founder of Sojo. Having recently launched the app she calls the "Deliveroo of clothing alterations and repairs", we spoke to her about the importance of caring for our clothes and to learn more about starting a sustainable tech business.

1. Where did the idea for Sojo come from?

I know it’s a cliché but the idea for Sojo came from a personal problem that I realised there was no solution for. I’d moved away from fast fashion and was shopping nearly exclusively second-hand clothes. This was great until I noticed that I had the recurring problem of consistently finding items I loved that weren’t my size. I had no idea how to sew and thought that going to a seamster was too much time and effort so never ended up buying them (and if I did, they just added to a pile of clothes in my wardrobe that I’d ‘get around to one day’). So, I set about thinking of a solution which would mean I could get clothes altered to me on my phone seen as I’m a generation where we’re used to everything at our fingertips quite literally!

2. What was it like to go from graduating university to starting your own tech business? How did you do it?

I think it’s probably been the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done (and may ever do to be honest). Obviously having no professional or business experience and not much money isn’t the greatest recipe for success, and it’s definitely been difficult because I’ve simultaneously had to learn the absolute basics of how one goes about founding a startup whilst also actually doing it at the same time. Having said that, the reason I’ve been able to do it (and I can’t emphasise this enough) is because of my support network- whether that’s friends and family or mentors and advisors or my University or other female entrepreneurs, even though I’m a ‘solo’ founder I haven’t felt alone and their belief in me (as well as my own) has made me not falter in knowing that I’m 100% on the right path.

3. How do you organise your time when you run your own business?

I think I’m still figuring that one out! I don’t think I’ve got it quite right yet as I feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions and running around like a headless chicken sometimes!

Aside from my software engineers it’s still just me running the business so I have so many roles to fill and I think I prioritise according to whatever upcoming deadline there is (which I don’t think is the healthiest way to do it).

At the moment I’m really trying to implement time-blocking for tackling certain grouped tasks (for example each week using Sunday afternoons for social media, or each day using 5-7pm for customer service etc) because I’ve heard that the structure helps with reducing stress and feeling on top of things. But I’ll let you know how that one goes as I don’t think I’ve mastered it quite yet.

4. Thinking in the context of sustainability and feminism, why is repairing and caring for our existing clothes so important?

As many of us now know, fashion waste is such a huge problem in the fashion industry and it’s caused by things we’ve become so accustomed to, like trends that are consistently changing, low-quality materials being used in our clothes and society’s pervasive throwaway culture. This is inherently unsustainable and by looking after our clothes, repairing them, tailoring them to us, giving them longevity – we’re not only reducing the amount of fashion waste we create we’re also reducing the amount of new clothes that we’d need to by. According to WRAP extending the list of a garment by just 9-months of active use would reduce its carbon and water footprint by 30%. When making new garments has such a bad environmental impact, not having to by new because we’re looking after the old is such a great way to live more sustainably.

In terms of feminism, looking after the clothes we already own on a micro level, inherently respects the person who made them more but also on a macro level if we are to look after our clothes more and as such, buy less, it will mean we can buy quality and quality means a garment can be made out of ethical and sustainable materials by a WOC garment worker who was paid fairly and valued the way they should be.

5. What are your top tips for someone starting out on their sustainable fashion journey?

I’d say my top tip is to start on a path of learning because it’s hard to feel impassioned on a topic or motivated to act on something when you don’t know all about it. I personally found that once my eyes had been opened to all the information and statistics and the people behind our clothes, there’s wasn’t really any going back.

In terms of tangible recommendations to implement this I’d say start to follow intersectional environmentalists and slow fashion influencers, like Venetia La Manna, Aja Barber or Mikaela Loach. You can also listen to the podcast Remember Who Made Them which centres the stories of garment workers or watch the documentary Fashion’s Dirty Secrets. Or there are also books out there, like Lauren Bravo’s How to Break Up with Fast Fashion, and also jump on the bandwagon by pre-ordering Orsola De Castro’s book ‘Loved Clothes Last.’ Sorry, there’s a lot to digest there but it’s to cover people who like to consume through different mediums!

6. What is your hope for the fashion industry and for Sojo in 2021?

I know it’s been building up for years, but I think particularly in 2020, consumer awareness around sustainable fashion really came to the forefront of people’s attention and the media. In my mind, this would mean that hopefully in 2021 and moving forward we will start to see those mindset shifts coming into effect with peoples purchasing power. More second-hand shopping, more renting, more repairing, more loving of the clothes we already have I hope the trend keeps moving in the direction of sustainability and I believe that it will!

I’d like to see Sojo everywhere! We’ve had a couple of hundred area submissions on the app from people who want us to come to areas outside of London and I just want to get out there and do it! In doing so we’ll be able to help as many people as possible in their quest for a more sustainable wardrobe by making clothing alterations and repairs super easy. First comes London, then the UK, then Europe then the world- one repair at a time I want us to have a big impact in making the industry more circular.

Download Sojo.

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Credits:
Photos: @sojo_app and @daphnemilner

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