My name is Josephine Philips, I’m from London and currently live in Shepherd’s Bush with my sister and friend. I am the Founder & CEO of Sojo, a FashionTech start-up hoping to help make fashion circular.
Could you tell us about Sojo?
Sojo is the UK’s first clothing alterations and repairs app. We connect customers to local seamster businesses through our app and bicycle delivery service so that they can get their clothes fixed or fitted with a few simple clicks. Whether it’s shortening trousers or fixing a zip, you place an order on the app and then Sojo handles the rest – collecting, fulfilling and delivering the order back to you.
What does Sojo stand for?
My mum actually came up with it! It was originally Sewjo and was (quite unoriginally) a mix of sewing and my name, Josephine. But then I thought Sojo would be more memorable!
When did you launch your sojo app and what was the motivation behind it?We launched Sojo in January 2021 and the motivation was to try and create something that would help in making the fashion industry more circular. With Sojo, we want to make clothing alterations and repairs mainstream, by making getting your clothes tailored an easy, and hassle-free process. Quite often doing the ‘right thing’ or choosing the more sustainable option takes more time and effort and that can be a barrier to entry for some people. It was really important for Sojo that we made sustainable fashion convenient and easy.
When did you realise there was a gap in the market for something like Sojo?
I actually had the idea for Sojo in my final year of university, so end of 2019. Quite stereotypically, the idea came out of a personal problem. I was shopping second-hand clothes all the time but kept finding items that I liked that weren’t my size but didn’t have an easy way to alter them - much like many of my contemporaries, I didn’t know how to sew and going to a local seamster was too much time and effort. When I realised that the second-hand clothes market and, more broadly, the sustainable fashion market was booming but that there wasn’t a market leader in the clothing repair and tailoring space I knew that I had to create it.
What has the feedback been like since you launched?
So positive! Feedback from customers truly makes all the hard-work and late nights and self-doubt worth it. We’ve only had 5-star reviews on the App Store and reading what people have to say makes me so happy I can’t even tell you!
How does one go about creating an app? Do you have any advice?
My advice would be to make sure you find all ways to trial and test your business or service idea for as long as possible without an app as it’s a long and costly process! Last summer, I was just getting people to fill in a ‘google-forms’ of what they wanted done and their address and then I’d head out on my bike and do the collections and take it to the local seamster. This was really important to prove and test before parting with any time or money. I’d also say make sure you manage expectations around timing to create your app- my software engineer said it would take 6 weeks and it took 6-months in the end- bear that in mind for sure!
What is one of the most important things you’ve learnt as a young entrepreneur?
That although being exceptionally young has it pitfalls, it also has many perks as people are much willing to help mentor, guide and give their expertise for free when you’re young. Create a strong network of people who back you and can guide you and definitely absorb all the knowledge they’ve learnt over the decades!
Do you have advice for those wanting to start a new business?
I’d say the hardest part is actually just starting, so just being brave enough to put yourself out there and get going is the most crucial part for your new business. Push aside any fears and just give it a go, as long as you’re thinking and working lean, if it’s unsuccessful it will still be a great experience and learning curve.
Has sustainability always been important to you when it comes to fashion?Much like nearly everyone in the sustainable fashion space I used to be a big consumer of fast fashion, it was so embedded in our culture and its unethical practices and un-sustainability were totally hidden from the mainstream. It’s important to always acknowledge that because we all start somewhere. Slowly you start to learn about the industry and all the ways that it’s harmful to both our planet and its people more and more, and then it’s really hard to go back.
Do you buy vintage and pre-owned pieces?
Of course! When buying, second-hand is always a really great and sustainable option that I always look towards! I love charity shops or thrift stores for clothes, and I love car-boot sales for furniture and accessories. Second-hand isn’t second best and it’s always a great first option!
Do you have a favourite antique or vintage piece?
Yes! Last year, my grandma gave me a dress she owned when she was in her 20’s. She’s in her 90’s now so the dress is nearly 70 years old. To me it means so much for so many different reasons. I love wearing it because it always makes me think of it’s life and history and makes me feel so connected to her. It’s also indicative of how we have so much to learn from older generations about how to look after our clothes and what slow fashion truly means.
What is your favourite PI London piece?
I’m an earring girl, and I always love a gold hoop, so choosing from all your beautiful options was hard! But I’d have to say my favourite PI London piece is definitely the twisted rope hoops. They’re stunning, simple and a staple.