Created by Wellington sisters Johanna and Brittany Cosgrove in October 2016, Nope Sisters Clothing began with a simple idea; a t-shirt embroidered with the scars left behind post breast cancer treatment, made in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They had no idea of the response it would evoke once shared on social media, but within days, people from all over the globe had contacted them, eager to wear and share their message proudly across their chests. Months of frenzied sewing and fulfilling orders followed, eventuating in over one hundred black and white ‘mastectoTEE’ t-shirts making their way around the world. We chat to them about getting Nope Sisters Clothing up and running, the moment breast cancer first entered their lives and how they chose which charity to lend their support to.
Hi Johanna & Brittany! Tell us a little about what first inspired you to start making ‘mastectoTEES’?
Brittany hand stitched herself a one off mastectoTEE in response to Breast Cancer awareness month last October – it was inspired by the scars of our mum Bette who is a survivor of Breast Cancer. Johanna posted it onto social media and within the hour we had sold 30 t-shirts, thus Nope Sisters was born. It was honestly 0-100 in 5 minutes, neither of us had intentions of starting a clothing brand initially but both of us feel incredibly passionate about using the mastectoTEE as a way to spread awareness and support for Breast Cancer. We are also stoked to be able to donate the profits from the sale of the mastectoTEE to Cansurvive, a dragon boat team that our mum is part of made up entirely of breast cancer survivors.
What’s the meaning behind the name Nope Sisters Clothing and what’s the ethos of your brand?
“Nope” for us is definitely indicative of an attitude and fierceness we both share. The driving force behind Nope Sisters is to make something striking and empowering and donate the profits to a causes that are very close to our hearts. “Sisters making dope stuff for a good cause”
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer worldwide, meaning many of us will be affected by it in some way in the course of our lives, be it through the struggles of family, friends or ourselves. What did the experience of having a loved one battle this disease teach you?
Our mother is the strongest person we know, and she never let her treatment get in the way of living her damn life (she would literally go to work in the morning and chemo in the afternoon) and it taught us so much in terms of just valuing what you have and taking advantage of each day. Watching and supporting someone you love go through chemo and surgery is truly difficult and terrifying at times, and we couldn’t have got through it without the support of our own friends and wider family.
How hard has it been juggling Nope Sisters Clothing with your other jobs and creative endeavours, and have you got any advice to ladies that are looking to start their own successful side projects?
It’s definitely been a learning curve! Both of us have never studied fashion or marketing or business so we are literally learning on the job every day. Brittany works full time in Wellington and Johanna is an actor who travels a lot so it gets pretty hectic. To all the gals with great ideas – make them happen.
Social media is a tool that has been utterly instrumental for us, especially Instagram and Facebook. The platforms are free and so easy to connect with people and spread your message. Women are fed the myth of perfection in such a myriad of ways and it’s bullshit – your ideas don’t have to be perfect before people will engage, you just have to care about them and nurture them and get them out there.
You donate part of your profits to charity, which is super cool. How did you decide what charity to donate to and how does your charity of choice directly improve the lives of women?
It was really important to us that we donated to a cause that is local and tangible for us and we can see directly where the profits go. CanSurvive is a group of women who have all survived Breast Cancer and continue to strive to empower themselves by becoming boss athletes – they came 3rd in the world at the Breast Cancer Suvivors Dragon Boat Championships in Florida over a year ago. The sense of strength and community that these women foster through their sport is incredibly admirable and we are really stoked to support them.
The media has such a frustratingly narrow representation of how a female body should look, in particular how it should look in order to be considered sexy or desirable. It feels refreshing to see the scars of breast cancer survivors depicted in an empowering light. Do you think that your design helps normalise the bodies of breast cancer survivors and was that your intention when you first came up with the idea?
Absolutely. It has been amazing to receive feedback from many people across the world who are both Breast cancer survivors and have loved ones who have survived breast cancer saying how overwhelmed they feel from their bodies being represented and normalised in an empowering way.
What’s up next for Nope Sisters Clothing? Do you have any plans to branch out to other items of clothing and create different designs?
We have just released our second t-shirt which is also incredibly close to our hearts. It centres around consent and aims to raise profits and awareness against sexual and gender based violence. All proceeds from this shirt will go directly to HELP, a charity in Wellington that is affiliated with the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network and provides immediate and necessary services for victims of sexual assault. It’s 2017 and New Zealand sexual and domestic violence statistics are still outrageous. Consent education and working towards fostering healthy relationships are of the utmost importance not only to us but to everyone.