The NopeSisters are crushing it right now – and have even bigger things in the pipeline for 2019.
It’s no secret we love the NopeSisters, aka real-life sisters Brittany, 25, and Johanna Cosgrove, 26. The duo launched their social enterprise in 2017, designing t-shirts that called out the social issues they wanted to spark conversations around and beyond that, also donate a portion of their proceeds to a relevant “partner charity”. In the two short years since forming, their embroidered tees have shone a light on (and raised almost $10,000) for social issues such as breast cancer awareness, sexual abuse, youth suicide prevention, consent education, eating disorder awareness, body positivity, environmental crises and period poverty.
You clearly love what they’re doing too, as they took out the top prize in the reader-voted Miss FQ Influence Awards in 2018 (held by our sister brand Miss FQ), in the highly-competitive ‘Social Change’ category. So it was only natural for us to think of the NopeSisters when Converse launched their awesome ‘Love The Progress’ collection, part of their All The Stories Are True campaign, which brings together female trailblazers from all over the world who, against the odds in many cases, are carving their own path and inspiring other young women to live by their own terms. They join actor and activist Millie Bobby Brown, Australian-Russian Stephanie Kurlow, the first hjiabi ballerina, and Qin Yungqua, a Singaporean native committed to empowering women through self-defence, as some of the fearless females redefining what it means to be a girl today.
Bringing the global campaign to this part of the world, Converse has teamed up with FQ and Miss FQ to celebrate amazing local women doing badass things.
Read on to see what the NopeSisters have had in the works since their epic win, plus what it’s like being strong, fearless females leading us on a path to social change…
How would you describe the NopeSisters and the business you’ve created?
We exist to respond to issues that we deeply care about and have been affected by, and we’re looking to change attitudes, spark conversations and donate money to organisations who are on-the-ground working to support people in need. We’re always growing and it is also a reflection of our personalities – bolshy, hard-hitting, empathetic and fierce.
What does it mean to be a girl in the 21st century?
Brittany: It means being educated and aware, realising when to not take shit from people who are ignorant and being able to have the knowledge and confidence to explain your point of view. It means being empowered and pushing boundaries to write a narrative for ourselves that we want to write.
Johanna: We are afforded more resources, knowledge and connection than our mothers and grandmothers but with that comes a heightened awareness of the massive gaps of privilege that exist around us. We are still bombarded with male-centric ideas of beauty, education and behaviour, but we are beginning to be armed with the tools to reject and change them.
Define what the word ‘GIRL’ really means to you.
B: Any person who identifies as a young woman. A ‘girl’ deserves all the equality and rights that every feminist fights for – that’s every human (every gender) who’s a feminist.
J: Yes, a young woman is anyone who identifies as one.
Tell us about your personal path to empowerment?
B: Finally understanding that being thin and being happy aren’t the same thing. Learning that if you’re a victim of sexual assault, it’s not your fault. Not caring what people think about you because you can’t make everyone happy.
J: The word “empowerment” can be problematic because it has been co-opted by the capitalist system to mean that you exercise your political autonomy or power often by your choices of spending money. This disrupts any sense of community or collective action, by breaking it down into an individual or personal set of choices. NopeSisters is about creating community. When we realised that we were part of a like-minded community – many of them fearsomely talented and intelligent femme-identifying powerhouses – we knew we could both stand for our message and values, while uplifting others through rejecting patriarchal norms. It was a breath of fresh air. Imposter Syndrome can also f*ck right off.
Who are your mentors or feminist icons that you aspire to?
B: Ruth Bader Ginsberg , Chloe Swarbrick, Miley Cyrus, Jacinda Ardern.
J: My incredible friends who blow me away every day with their tenacity. The beautiful community of NZ female theatre makers and artists: Jane Campion, Margaret Atwood, Hera Lindsay Bird, Kathleen Hana, Dame Whina Cooper.
Why do you think it’s more important now than ever for women to help one another?
B: Society has conditioned women to fight with each other for the acknowledgement and affection of men, and although we’ve come a long way we still need to practice every day to help love and support each other, and to wash out the ingrained misogyny and competitive attitude that a less progressive society instilled in us.
J: Because the colonial patriarchal system isn’t designed with the needs and interests of women at its heart. We can take action to move forward together. And we are absolutely capable.
How has the NopeSisters been instrumental in raising awareness for women’s rights?
B: We tried to make our messages as honest and clear as possible on our t-shirts. Women need to be clear with what we want, and why – stop being polite, meek, or unheard. We think that is why women love wearing these clothes. They simply say – in black and white – something that women (and in fact all feminists) can get behind. It’s a walking billboard – we think wearers appreciate that. If they want to spark a conversation it’s a great starter – to talk about period poverty, or body shaming, or sexual assault. It somehow makes it easier for wearers to be open and honest – that’s always a great start in discussing women’s rights.
J: The issues that we advocate mostly affect women. Sexual violence, eating disorders, period poverty and breast cancer (for example) all have statistics in which women are heavily present. Encouraging open conversation around these things begins a social shift and a change in attitudes for all genders. It removes stigma and myths, and allows access to resources to help people affected by these issues. We are definitely not in the business of being negative towards men, but we are passionate about breaking down toxic masculinity which is beneficial for all genders. Change can only come if all genders honestly address these issues – it’s like what our t-shirt (and our Prime Minister) says: “MeToo must become WeToo.”
Define your own sense of style.
B: If Miley Cyrus was a drag queen from New Zealand who bought her clothes in op shops.
J: ‘Bogan Glamour Witch’.
How has Converse enabled you to form and express your own sense of style?
B:They’re a very versatile and androgynous shoe which I love, and so comfortable while still being fashionable. Just love their classic comfort.
J: They’re iconic!! They have seen me through the highs and lows of teenage-adulthood and are totally ageless. They are also comfy as hell and go with everything. Also, if you managed to get away with having black leather chucks at high school you were deeply skux.
Is helping to raise awareness through your clothing only just the start for you? What’s coming next?
B: I hope it’s just the start. Our whole business venture has been without expectations and we’re just taking everything as it comes, in an organic response to what feels right, or what customers get behind. As a person and an artist I can’t survive or grow without changing it up and trying new things, so I would like to think it’s just the start. I am about to bring out my vintage collection of some exclusive jackets and up-cycle those for NopeSisters. The fashion industry definitely needs to get into the circular economy to reduce humans’ shocking waste mentality.
Do you have any final advice to share with other women walking the path of empowerment?
B: Never let a fear of what people think, hold you back from what you want to do. Nothing new is learned without failure, so don’t be afraid of mistakes – they can be your fastest way to success.
J: Do whatever you have to do to make yourself the most comfortable and safe and happy at any given time sis! Support other women, don’t be afraid to ask for help, take care of your mental health and be completely and utterly kind to yourself.
Photos: Rob Corica
This article is brought to you in partnership with Converse and their new ‘Love The Progress’ collection – designed by an all-female team and inspired by women past and present who are moving the needle for the next generation. The edgy-yet-feminine collection uses cute details, such as the heart motifs on the side of and under the sole, plus meaningful text, fun prints and cool colour-ways. Available online at converse.com.au, in-store at Converse Sylvia Park, Converse Manukau, Converse St Lukes & selected retailers across the country.