Two Wellington sisters Johanna and Brittany Cosgrove are fighting social injustice with fashion saying NOPE to many social issues and gaining national recognition in the process.
Turning a negative into a positive, the pair found fashion and art was a perfect medium to channel their frustrations around such issues as breast cancer, sexual assault, period poverty, youth suicide and eating disorders.
Their bold t-shirt designs enable wearers to spread important social messages, spark conversation and raise funds in support.
Sales have enabled donations of over $6,500 to chosen charities in the past year. Te Papa described the NopeSisters’ work as a great “example of a social enterprise successfully launched on social media.”
Now they are being nationally recognised during the 125 year celebration of Women’s Suffrage in New Zealand. In addition, NopeSisters designer Brit Cosgrove has been named as a finalist in the Young Leader category of New Zealand’s 2018 Women of Influence Awards.
The two young Wellington women also recently had their their first two embroidered t-shirt designs collected by Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum, to add to the permanent collection, as significant objects of contemporary history. The shirts will be part of a celebratory 125 years of Women’s Suffrage Exhibition in September.
Opening up a conversation
Their first t-shirt was inspired by the devastating news that their mother Bette Cosgrove had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Designed by Brittany to normalise the scars of breast cancer, the t-shirt shows on the outside, what is usually hidden underneath clothing.
It opens conversations for the wearers about early detection.
Their mother Bette says,
They seemed to take my diagnosis in their stride and kept going with their lives, keeping their fear at my vulnerability to themselves.
“They did not want to stress me any further. They got a lot of support from their friends or others who had gone through similar situations. Fighting ill health, whether it be from something as serious as cancer or major disability, or even mental illness tests you to new limits.
“I think these young women learnt so much about their own abilities to cope independently during my treatment period.”
Bette is also proud of how her daughters have responded to the social issues they are rising up against.
“These girls get fired up about issues and then they follow through and do something about it. Even as very privileged young women, they have experienced some really tough life challenges, which have tested them.
But with their resilience and empathy they have been able to take action to give to others, or support those who are not always as fortunate as they are.”
Brittany and Johanna have been blown away by how their ‘fashion for a cause’ idea has taken-off so quickly. They feel the experience has definitely changed them for the better.
Brittany says, “I’ve found constructive ways to channel the anger and frustration I feel about todays injustices by using art and fashion.”
“We’ve realised the talent in the people around us, and how by working together we can all support each other to do the things we want to do.”
To encourage others Brittany and Johanna add,
Do something you really care about.
“Giving makes you feel good and helping people feels good, and yes it means you probably won’t make as much money as someone who isn’t giving, but you’ll feel great doing good because, we rise by lifting others.”
The women have high hopes that the increased national profile of their t-shirts will enable NopeSisters social enterprise to add new fashion ideas giving to more charity partners, but most of all continue to be a powerful tool for protest and social change.
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