We’re so excited to introduce our new Pearly Queen, Josephine Phillips. As CEO of SOJO, Josephine is making waves in the fashion tech space and driving systemic change within the industry, by offering an accessible solution for alterations and repairs.
We spoke to Josephine about the importance of extending the life cycle of our clothes, the future of circularity – and the launch of our brand new partnership!
You can now book alterations on selected MOP products in the UK – whenever this service is available on a garment you will see our ‘Alterations’ sustainable attribute.
“SOJO helps drive circularity through the repair and tailoring of our clothes. What inspired you to launch SOJO?”
I got into sustainable fashion during my time at University when I learnt about how unethical the fast fashion industry is with regards to its treatment of its garment workers - who are predominantly women of colour. But as I increasingly wanted to engage with sustainable fashion practices - such a shopping second hand and tailoring those clothes to fit or repairing something when it broke I realised that not only did I not know how to sew so couldn’t do it myself but even if I used an external tailor the whole process felt really inconvenient and archaic as it was still an entirely paper ticket industry. I thought that if we want this behaviour to become the norm, especially amongst younger generations, the sector needed to be modernised so that repair and tailoring could become incredibly easy and convenient for all.
“You’re CEO of your own business, have successfully raised funding, and are driving systemic change within fashion! How did you get here? What is your advice for anyone that has a great idea and wants to launch their own business?"
Ahaha my natural reaction was to answer that I don’t know how I got here but actually I do and I need to acknowledge it - it’s no easy feat to start a business, disrupt an industry and get people to put their money behind you and I’ve got here with a ridiculously large amount of determination, resilience, passion and good old fashioned hard work.
My advice to anyone with a great idea is to just start - and start in the smallest and cheapest way you can to validate whether it’s an idea worth pursuing. SOJO version 1 was a Google Forms and me on a bike cycling around London - entrepreneurship isn’t as glamorous as it seems and it should always begin in the most scrappy and light-touch way.
“It’s so important to extend the life cycle of our clothes, which is why we always consider longevity when designing our collections. How can we all take better care of our wardrobes? Any tips?”
- The first tip which I think people take for granted is understanding clothing care labels and making sure you wash things correctly. So much longevity in your clothes is built out of not over-washing or not washing at too high of a temperature or not putting something in a tumble dryer. So make sure those things that need extra care actually get it from you.
- The second is that it’s natural for us to get “tired” of our clothes and to think we have nothing to wear so you crave doing a wardrobe clearout and then buy lots of new things, but my tip is that when you feel that way - you should hide your clothes instead. Vacuum seal them and put them under a bed or in an attic. When you get them out again at the change of a season or in a year or two, they’ll feel like new again and it’s an exciting process to rediscover why you bought and loved them in the first place.
- The last tip is of course: tailor and repair your clothes. Tailoring your clothes to fit is such a crucial part to their longevity as we’ve all experienced not wanting to wear those trousers because they fit too tight around the tummy - and equally it shouldn’t be expected that our bodies never change. Tailoring allows your clothes to change with you and to work for you, not against you - ensuring their perfect place in your long term wardrobe. And then repair is totally obvious - if something rips or breaks, repair is the perfect antidote to something being unworn or being thrown away so it’s definitely the best solution to extending the lifespan of your clothes.
“We want our MOP pieces to be worn and loved for as long as possible - and we’re so excited to partner with SOJO to help keep our clothes in circulation for longer. Why is repairing our existing clothes so important? ”
Repairing our existing clothes is important for two main reasons, the first is that it helps reduce waste. Textile waste accounts for 92 million tonnes of waste annually (and growing) and it’s often waste that’s discarded to the global south perpetuating waste colonialism. It often arrives at the shores of Accra, Ghana or creates huge piles big enough to be visible from space in the Atacama desert in Chile. Repairing our clothes keeps them in our wardrobe and on our bodies and allows them to continue to be loved instead of contributing to our culture of hyper-disposability and our global waste crisis. The second reason is that if you throw something away when it breaks, that often means that you’ll replace it and so when you choose to repair instead - not only are you saving textile waste but you’re also negating the impact of virgin production and all the associated resources used to create something new.
"What are the most common repair or alteration requests you receive at Sojo?"
Shortening services are definitely the biggest request! Which is understandable as clothes (particularly women’s clothing) is often made in just one length - yet people can be 5ft10 and 5ft1. One size fits all doesn’t work when we’re all so unique!
Aside from that our most common repairs are us doing a lot patching denim, fixing moth holes in knitwear and replacing zips!
"Circularity within fashion has become a big topic of conversation over the past few years. Have you noticed any shifts in consumer attitudes when it comes to fashion? What changes do you hope to see?"
Of course. SOJO is definitely trying to push change in the industry but also the change was already happening and so we’re happily riding that wave. Consumers are definitely thinking more consciously about how they shop and are engaging in more circular ways of consumption for example with fashion resale or fashion rental or they are slowing down their shopping habits in general and looking to tailor and repair what they already own. The change is happening - but it's just at the beginning and it just definitely needs to happen quicker. The majority of people still have the amazing opportunity of discovering what sustainable fashion is and how changing the way we shop (if we shop at all) can bring a lot to our lives individually and collectively!
"What do you think or hope that circularity will look like in the future?"
If we’re truly talking utopia - I’d like to believe in a future in which waste doesn’t exist. Where we look back and think landfills were the most ludicrous thing to have existed. Where most of the things we buy and use are reusable and are cared for and looked after by us and if they do become ‘waste’ that ‘waste’ is used somewhere else as fuel. A truly circular economy. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing!
"What’s your approach to fashion, more generally?"
I’m going to quote Vivienne Westwood here as I do think it entirely encapsulates how I approach fashion myself: "buy less, choose well, make it last."
"For our shoot, you’re wearing pieces from our new collection. What do you like about MOP? What are your favourite pieces from the collection?"
Fashion is so often opaque and full of falsehoods, what’s so powerful about Mother of Pearl for me is the authenticity with which Amy creates each collection and her commitment to transparency, quality, longevity and timeless beauty. The Documentary on Amy and Mother of Pearl, Fashion Reimagined, couldn't be a greater exemplar of the values that underpin the brand that truly align with a slower and more considered approach to fashion - which is how I like to think also. My personal favourites are the co-ord Ellery trouser and Revel top and also the Leone cardigan.
"What’s your pearl of wisdom?"
I'd be remiss if I didn't say that all your clothes should fit you perfectly and that we need to all be working together towards a future that's underpinned by a culture of care and repair.