Interviews

Meet The Sisters Driving Social Change by Saying NOPE

NopeSisters make dope clothing for a good cause, ‘cause why not? Or should we ask, why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? The concept is relatively simple; words on tees have been around forever, but these sisters from Wellington, New Zealand, have taken things to a whole new level. Read on...

Since launching the social enterprise NopeSisters, Johanna and Brittany Cosgrove have gone on to make waves including, but not limited to, winning The People’s Choice Award in The Good Stuff Awards in Australia, being nominated as Young NZ'ers of the Year, listed as amongst the top 50 influential NZ Women, and finalists in the national Women of Influence Awards. Not to mention, their ‘slogan tees’ are now stocked in the National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa.

So what sets these sisters apart? Their authentic, powerful brand mission and their bold and brave voices.

These sustainably-focused sisters have found a way to give voice to ‘tricky’ issues that are often overlooked. These include breast cancer awareness, sexual assault, period poverty, suicide, disordered eating, and environmental pollution and they’re putting their money where their mouth is: sharing their profits with NGOs and community groups on the ground.

They’ve built a simple and sustainable business model for social good, and by doing so, have created a platform to drive meaningful change.

Brittany explains:

“The concept grew from a simple idea when I embroidered a boob and scar representing the treatment Mum had undergone for breast cancer. I made a t-shirt that normalised her scars, putting them on show, but on the outside.’

 They named this one the ‘mastectotee’ and sales continue to help Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, to support their work nationally and push for new frontiers in early detection, treatment and care. The personal touch and authenticity of the NopeSisters speaks loud and proud with this design, allowing wearers to choose left, right or double mastectomy scars.

It caught on quickly, because it normalised and celebrated the scars of survivors, while also sharing an important reminder for self-examination and regular checks for early detection.

“Within 24 hours of the first mastectotee being made, we figured out our name: NopeSisters - saying NOPE to the things we wanted to change.”

This inspired the newly formed designer-duo to think about other experiences that had touched them, and they looked at how to create bold designs that could be stitched across people's chests. 

Johanna explains: “The issue of sexual consent and the abuse Brittany had experienced became a 'NOPE' t-shirt, giving donations to Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation – an amazing local charity that offers huge support and counselling services to victims of sexual harassment, abuse or violence.”

On the back of the worldwide #metoo movement, NopeSisters wanted to underscore the strength of collective voices, mirroring the 'me' and creating a '#meweTOO' design.

"We all know someone affected by sexual violence," explain the sisters.

“That’s why we’re saying, it’s not just #metoo – it’s ME & WE TOO.”

Profits from the #meweTOO tees are shared with Sexual Abuse HELP and Sexual Abuse Prevention Network. The message was echoed by NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the United Nations saying “meToo must become weTOO.”

Tackling the issue of period poverty - the sisters teamed up with Wellington social enterprise, Wā Collective, to normalise conversations about periods and period poverty. They stitched ‘period’ across the chest in red lettering, with money donated to provide reusable, affordable cups to students.

As well as sparking important conversations, the simple, unique designs, have become a wearable product for all genders. Supporters have commented that the purpose of the clothes’ message is as important as the donations to charity. Johanna says:

"We know that making a t-shirt might not change the world, but if it gives wearers some courage to speak out, enabling them to talk about important social issues, then we are hopeful that, slowly, change can happen.”

Their next mission...? Grow NopeSisters' internationally.

“We believe our messages resonate across the world, and we want to be a louder voice for our charities!”

 This change-maker interview was written in collaboration with NZ based writer Ren Kirk.

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