By Beatrice Tridimas
In her final year of studying Physics and Philosophy at King’s College London, Josephine Philips found herself thinking how easy it would be if she could alter her second-hand clothes with the click of a button.
A year later, she is celebrating the launch of her app, Sojo, a London-based Deliveroo-like service for clothing repairs and alterations. You simply input what alteration you need and a Sojo rider will take your item to a team of local seamsters and then return it to you, good as new and perfectly fitted.
We caught up with the 23-year-old business owner to chat about women, sustainability in business and second-hand shopping.
What was your inspiration for creating Sojo?
I made a move away from fast fashion about two years ago and that was because it didn’t align with my feminist values.
I started shopping second-hand all the time, but I found sizing was such a big issue and realised that if I wanted things to fit me, I’d have to get them altered. I had no idea how to do it myself and the other options seemed really time consuming and effortful. It’s very gen z of me, but I just wanted it on my phone!
Adding repairs as an option as well was a crucial decision because I thought it would really help in keeping clothes out of landfill as fashion waste is such a monumental problem, especially here in the UK.
By creating an app, I was excited that it wouldn’t just be a solution for me but a solution for everyone and it could have a wide reaching impact in bringing more circularity to the fashion industry.
What is the importance of using business to build sustainable practices and share these values?
I think that business is a great way to share your values because it increases the amount of impact you can have. As much as I could’ve campaigned for people to use a local tailor and shop more second-hand or to repair their clothes when they break, I don’t think I’d be able to create as much positive change as I hope to create in building a business that makes that process easier.
Creating a business that is successful in its own right, whilst simultaneously having sustainable practices and doing good is the ultimate goal, not just for me, but I believe for any business in the future. It’s important that we can see that works!
How can you influence other businesses to adopt circularity?
Leading by example is always good and that’s what I aim to do with Sojo. If other businesses see a circularity focussed brand succeeding, that will hopefully influence their decision making. Having said that, I think the planet is doing the talking for itself. Fundamentally, if you don’t have a sustainable or circular agenda in the next fifteen years, I think that the business has a shelf-life! The culture, community, system and businesses will move towards sustainability in the end because there’s not really another way.
Do you find that you are facing challenges as a sustainable business?
I do find it quite difficult that when you’re in the sustainability sphere, it needs to be perfection otherwise it’s not ok. I don’t really agree with that and I think we need more room for just moving in the right direction or trying to do good. I think it’s slightly problematic to be holding sustainable businesses to a higher standard than others. Having said that, it’s important to hold people accountable.
It’s balancing different things. It does worry me that I’m going to miss stuff, but as long as you’re aware. I know what we need to improve on. I’m trying to think in every aspect how we can be as good as possible. I think that’s the most important thing and I hope that people don’t get called out, when it’s a place for people to grow.
What’s one particular issue with the fashion industry that you would like everyone to know?
There’s a direct correlation there. Given that we’re in such a culture where feminism is really rampant, I do think it’s really important to correlate that with the fast fashion that we see on our Instagram feeds and really look at how we treat women in the global South.
There are so many women in the sustainable fashion industries…
When I think about these fast fashion brands and the fact they’re owned and run by these billionaire white men, I do just think it’s a gendered decision. You can’t get to where they are, which is their horrific, cheap, fast fashion, without the capitalism that oppresses people at the bottom.
They can’t get to being billionaires without that and they can’t get to the clothes being that cheap without the cheap labour and the cheap materials. I know it’s a generalisation, but I’m thinking that the only people who are willing to do that, to oppress hundreds of thousands of women of colour at the bottom and then go off on a yacht at the top, it’s just going to be men. It would be so much better if women ruled the world!
What is an everyday thing that someone can do to be more conscious or ethical in their fashion choices?
I would say the first thing that I think is quite fundamental is loving the clothes you already own. It takes time, but unlearning the need to shop and unlearning consumerism. That first step of unlearning over-consumption is really the best thing that you can do.
Buying an item of clothing should be like choosing a tattoo: is it something that you will love for the rest of your life? Because you should have it for the rest of your life. In terms of second hand, if you tailor your clothes, the love that you have for them will be so much stronger. Particularly with second hand, it just changes the way that you wear them and feel about them.