One thing we've been unable to do thanks to nationwide lockdowns, though, is get the clothes in need of a little love repaired and mended. Sure, we've invested in mothballs and dust bags, leather wax (those Dr Martens aren't going to clean themselves!) and ocean-friendly delicate washing liquid, but when it comes to mending, altering and tailoring, sometimes you need a second pair of hands – and a more skilled set at that.
Enter: Sojo. The new app, launching today, is here to make your journey to a more sustainable wardrobe a little easier. The premise is simple: enter your postcode, decide which local seamster looks right for your request (while prices are set by each seamster, roughly most alterations range between £12 and £40), select what you need done, from hems being taken up – a boon for petite folk – to zips being added to dresses, and a bike courier will cycle to collect your piece. Et voilà: your piece will be returned within five days, ready to wear.
The app came about when founder Josephine Philips faced a sartorial problem. "I’d made a move away from fast fashion and was shopping nearly exclusively secondhand, but I constantly found myself finding amazing clothes that I loved that weren’t my size," she tells Refinery29 ahead of the launch. "I wanted to alter them to fit me but didn’t know how to sew and thought getting someone else to do it was too much time and effort. In very Gen Z fashion, I decided it would be fabulous if I could get it done with my phone, in a few simple clicks. I realised this could bring clothing alterations and repairs to so many people, which would mean incredible things for the circular fashion movement – and so I was determined to actually build out the idea, to create something that aligned with my values and that could make an impact in making fashion more sustainable."
Though Josephine can't pinpoint the exact start of her sustainability journey, it was kickstarted by her feminist one. Last year's news coverage of unpaid high street orders and garment workers being left destitute woke many people up to the realities of a broken fashion system. "I became aware of how garment workers (who are majority women of colour) were being exploited by the big high street fast fashion brands in really shocking ways," she says. "When I read into it more, I realised I couldn’t support brands that relied on an oppressive business structure and strategy in order to succeed. Because of this, I started to look at different ways to shop, from places like Depop or from sustainable brands, and in doing so I learned so much more about all the environmental aspects of fast fashion – from there, there was no going back really."
By connecting customers to local tailors in an accessible way, Sojo is a fantastic resource for those who don't live near a tailor or are unable to leave the house. But it was important to Josephine to spotlight small businesses that may be struggling in the pandemic, too.
"Many of these local seamsters have decades of experience and the services they provide are to the highest standard, but there is a disconnect with them tapping into the younger demographic," she says. "I didn’t want them and their trade to be a part of the 'dying high street' and thought that their businesses and expertise deserved to be platformed and supported instead of us creating a model that brought our own seamsters 'in house'. Especially in the current climate, I think it’s more important than ever to be supporting them and their businesses as much as possible and I’m glad that Sojo really gets to facilitate that and help their shops stay afloat at the moment and then, hopefully, thrive."
So what's first on Josephine's list of things to get tailored? "It’s no exaggeration to say that I have over 10 items in a special 'alteration' section of my drawer that I need to use Sojo for," she says. "I’d say the one I’m most excited about is a Hugo Boss two-piece suit I bought about six months ago in a charity shop for £20 that was too big for me – but I knew would be perfect once tailored to my size!"
While the app is currently only available in London (roughly zones 1-2), Josephine promises a quick expansion once lockdown lifts, with Brighton and Bristol up first. So watch this space, and get your wardrobe ready.