Belinda Nash charts the rise of Nopesisters Clothing—a success born from tragedy.
Wellington sisters Britt and Johanna Cosgrove’s journey into fashion is personal. The pair unknowingly launched a movement, first designing the ‘Mastectotee’ as a breast cancer fundraiser in 2016 inspired by their mother, which led to its ‘NOPE’ and ‘NOPE for HOPE’ tees, tragically motivated by a suicide following sexual assault.
“So many of our friends are survivors of sexual abuse and assault,” says Johanna, 26, who now lives off Karangahape Road. “We felt that it was of the utmost importance to address rape culture through conversations around consent education.
“NOPE FOR HOPE came after young women approached us for custom T-shirts to honour a friend they lost to a suicide following a sexual assault. Having lost close, beautiful friends to suicide ourselves, this was another conversation we had to throw our weight behind.
“Mental health in this country is constantly stigmatised or misunderstood, and that needs to change.”
Nopesisters Clothing donates 25 per cent of its net income from sales to partner charities Youthline and Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation, Wellington.
Britt acknowledges that therapy “saved my life”. Following her own malicious sexual assault by a group of teenage boys when she was just 13, Britt, now 24, turned to substance abuse and hit a crisis point with several suicide attempts before getting specialised, professional help.
“Young teenagers can be cruel, telling you straight to your face that it was your fault ‘cause you’re a slut and a whore, and never once questioning the assailants,” she says. “This caused a lot of mental health issues for me and several attempts on my own life, which were also swept under the carpet by people my own age around me.
“This is why it’s so important to bring these issues to light, because I grew up not having these conversations and definitely could have benefitted from them. I hope these conversations now will help others in feeling less alone.”
The Ministry of Justice states that 24 per cent of women, and six per cent of men, will experience “high-end
sexual violence” in their lifetime, with only an estimated seven per cent, reported to police, and people who are transgender are more vulnerable, and the wider LGBTIQ+ citing barriers to reporting to police.
“Sexual abuse is alarmingly widespread. Statistics show one in three girls under 16, one in four women, one in eight boys, but one in two for people who are transgender experience a sexual assault,” says Johanna.
“Trauma does not discriminate, but we have definitely felt overwhelming support from the LGBTIQ+ community, through wearing our T-shirts and spreading the messages behind them.”
Nopesisters Clothing uses ethically sourced clothing, with embroidery done locally in Wellington.
“Just like I want to know where all the money from the shirts is going, I want to know where these shirts are coming from,” says Britt.
“I would not with a clear conscious be able to have a clothing company that uses slave labour. Having the tees locally embroidered is important because the money is going back into our community. And it’s nice to be able to see the women who put in the work to make them.”
Find Nopesisters Clothing online at www.nopesisters.com. If you need help, call Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP 09 623 1700, Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP 24 hour crisis line 04 801 6655, or Youthline on 0800 376633 or free txt 234.