Brittany and Johanna Cosgrove from Nope Sisters. Image supplied.
Wellington based sisters Brittany and Johanna Cosgrove founded their social enterprise Nope Sisters in 2016 with the aim of creating clothing that carries a strong message and supports the charities they believe in. What began as creating a supportive hand-embroidered t-shirt for their mum who was diagnosed with breast cancer has grown into a brand that takes a stand on social issues that effect New Zealanders like period poverty, sexual consent, youth suicide and eating disorders. Their focus is on creating a conversation around these issues through their clothing with the aim of creating positive change. Nope Sisters donates 50% of the profits from each of their collections to their charity partners and the sisters powerful work has been recognised both locally and internationally already.
We caught up with Brittany and Johanna to find out more about their brand, what inspires them and what you would never catch them wearing!
Tell us about your latest collection?
Brittany: Our latest ‘Loved Before’ collection is made completely from recycled denim or leather found at op shops.
It’s all re-worked, hand screen-printed, or embroidered with our messages and some are patch-worked together.
It’s bold like our t-shirts, but completely new for us. It’s a sustainable way to add more life to existing clothes and it gives money to double the causes, because we search at charity op shops to buy quality made garments, then we re-brand and sell them, so we can share 50% profit with our own charity partners. Each piece is completely one of a kind. We hope it’s as special to its new owner as it is to us .
Johanna: Brit explained this. It’s focused on buying less, wearing sustainable, quality clothes that endure many, many great wears.
What made you become designers?
Brittany: It happened purely by accident. Our first mastectotee was hand embroidered for us to wear to support our Mum, but when people wanted to buy it we realised we had something great, that could also be a fundraiser for a good cause. Since then we’ve been designing tees with bold messages raising money for causes that are close to our hearts, and have only recently moved into a variety of everyday upcycled clothing that isn’t tees and hoodies.
Johanna: We’ve always loved clothing as a means of expression – but NOPESISTERS specifically was about using clothes as a vehicle to champion conversations around issues that we think need to be talked about such as: sexual consent, eating disorders, breast cancer awareness, the environment, menstruation stigma and youth suicide.
What inspires you?
Brittany: Art in any form. It’s hard to say what will inspire me, it might be a painting. a flower arrangement, or a music video or sometimes the inspiration comes straight from the cause or charity we want to support.
Johanna: Art – specifically the theatre scene in Tamaka Makaurau and Poneke.
I’m also an actor and a comedian so god knows I love a costume.
People that are unapologetically themselves, who bravely say the things that need to be heard no matter how uncomfortable that may be.
Long acrylic nails.
Anyone who can do the splits.
Models in Nope Sisters designs.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
Brittany: My personal style is changing all the time. I love op shopping and sometimes I find a top, skirt or jacket that I love, so I will centre my whole look around it for a while.
That’s why I love that our tee shirts are basic everyday wear, because they can always fit into an evolving style.
Our new collection is completely inspired by amazing pre-loved pieces we’ve found at op shops that we re-work and restyle.
Johanna: A bogan witch who got a Kowtow voucher for Christmas. I’m a fan of simple but big, bold statements, block colour and vintage op shop bargains and ‘more is…more’.
What is your all-time favourite purchase?
Brittany: My vintage Moschino two piece I bought at Hunters and Collectors of Cuba Street (also it’s a ‘loved before’ suit).
It cost me an arm and a leg but I can wear it to any and every occasion. Latest outing – the Waitangi Day garden party at Government House.
Johanna: My Doc Martens because I wear them literally every day baby!
What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
Brittany: A NopeSisters tee.
Johanna: Something that makes you feel sexy and cool and cute! Also, go ethical and buy your clothes as locally made as possible or second hand. Fast fashion needs to go.
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
Brittany: Nah, there is never one thing I have consistently done. I think fashion is such an ever-changing art form that shouldn’t have rules.
Johanna: Leopard print is a neutral! I will not be told otherwise! If it feels good it looks good – there are NO rules.
Brittany and Johanna Cosgrove in their period. tees.
What has been the highlight of your careers so far?
Brittany: NZ Fashion Week 2019 Sustainability Show was mad-as putting our clothes on the runway, and also Te Papa Tongarewa collecting our t-shirts and putting the NOPE tee in a glass display case was a huge highlight! Being featured in Australia’s Frankie mag Good Stuff Awards, and gracing the cover of the final edition of Wellington Woman’s Magazine. Our collabs with Converse Chucks GIRL and recycled denim collections were great. All of this really!
Johanna: Being able to donate money to incredible charities that do the real social work on the ground.
Our clothing included in the permanent collection at Te Papa; winning a New Zealander of the Year Local Hero Award; being in Vanity Fair; getting Frankie Magazine’s Good Stuff People’s Choice Award and winning Miss FQ Influencer of the Year – Social Justice Category (2018).
What can’t you live without?
Brittany: My family, coffee, solitude in nature, and any form of ART.
Johanna: Moisturiser, and the love of my outrageously talented friends and family.
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
Brittany: This is a hard one! I used to think it was anything low-waisted but it’s made a big resurgence lately and I’m kinda into it.
Perhaps – kitten heels – but they’ve also come back in a far more tasteful way.
So maybe crocs?
Johanna: Mate, I’d give literally anything a go except a fedora – that’s a hot fuccboi NOPE from me personally.