In a world flooded with brands that are in it for the profit and driven by the bottom-line, its refreshing to come across a brands with a greater purpose, which is something we celebrate on this platform. One of those brands is T-shirts for Change, who produce t-shirts that raise awareness around social issues and movements that seek to empower other. This brand takes their advocacy to the next level by putting their money where their mouth is and donating large portions of their sales to non-profit organizations is a big part of what they are about; get to know Nicole Jowett, who started this brand below.
Q. What inspired the start of T-shirts for Change and how did it come about?
A. Women’s rights have been quite prevalent in the media and it was never really something I had thought about before, but it just came to the forefront on my attention and suddenly felt this was something I need to get behind. I’m really into fashion and I wanted to express my alignment with women’s rights through t-shirts. I chose t-shirts cause I was looking for one for myself to wear to show my support and though I would come across t-shirts in chain stores that were going that route, they weren’t quite what I was looking for and so I decided to just create what I wanted myself.
The initial intention wasn’t to sell them, I only got 10 made because it was more affordable than getting just one made. Later when I realized Women’s Day was coming up, I thought to sell the extra ones I had and any profit I make I’ll donate to a women’s charity; and that’s how it all started.
Q. What did you study?
A. I’m qualified in web design and digital marketing and that’s what I worked in before I got into doing this full time. I actually did quite a lot of work for non-profit organizations in digital marketing and volunteering; so wanting to help in whatever way has always been a part of who I am.
All that work experience helps in the building and development of my business, and I have gone on to learn so much about clothing, I never imagined I would be in the world of manufacturing, but here I am and it’s been great.
Q. How did you come about the name T-shirts for Change?
A. I was getting so many orders and one day I just realised I needed a website, cause I couldn’t handle the volume of orders coming through instagram anymore, my inbox was so full! So I did a domain search for variations of “t-shirts for a cause” and when T-shirts for Change came up and was available, I felt that was it.
Q. What do you believe sets your brand apart and makes it different?
A. The fact that we donate a large portion of our profit has to be the main point, its allowed us to really be meaningful to the causes we work with. The other has to be how we choose to partner with organizations that empower others, be it women, children, etc. we get a lot of requests from a number of organizations, but that general theme of empowerment is key. And lastly I would say the slogans we choose to put on our t-shirts lean towards speaking to a cause or movement that is relevant, we wouldn’t necessarily put the name or slogan of a specific organization on our t-shirts.
Q. What would you say has been your greatest achievement since launching the brand?
A. The recent Cosmopolitan magazine cover feature and I hope there will be many more. The pairing of this brand that has largely grown through social media and these heavy weight influencers who gained success in the same way was perfect. I didn’t know how it was all going to happen until the end and seeing that cover it was something else, especially cause Aisha Baker was one of the first people I reached out to, to wear and share the feminist t-shirt and she was gracious enough to agree back then. I didn’t know she was one of the cover stars and seeing her on the cover in that t-shirt, felt like it had all come full circle.
Q. What was most challenging in starting up the brand? And how did you overcome that?
A. Capital, learning to recycle and reinvest the money I make back into the business and extending the ranges. Its an ongoing struggle that I’ve gotten a better handle on, by being smarter with how I buy stock, how I work with my suppliers, negotiating as best as I can, etc. Sharing what T-shirts for Change is about and how we donate a sizable percentage of our profit has helped get the buy-in of our suppliers who are willing to give us more favourable rates because of that. There has been a lot of learning in the journey, but I have really enjoyed it.
Q. Which African brand(s) would you want to collaborate with in future?
A. Lalesso, love their prints and the philosophy of their brand and Tilone Viljoen who does amazing portraits of fashion icons and I think a collaboration with the feminists theme would be great.
Q. Where would you like to see your brand in 5 or 10years?
A. I would like to have a big retail partner and more corporate partners through structured campaigns; and still being a regular contributor to non-profit organizations in South Africa.
Q. How do you balance your work and personal life?
A. I haven’t had much of a balance in the past, but it’s a priority for me this year and I stay off my computer on Saturdays and Sundays, just taking back my quiet time. That’s really helped dial back my stress levels and being frantic; though I will say now and then I will take a bit of time on Sundays for some work, but purely to prepare for the week ahead.
Q. Any words of wisdom for anyone looking to start up their own brand?
A. Instead of planning 10 steps ahead and kind of getting ahead of yourself, make sure you get the basics right first; and I think the best way to do that is by starting small and allowing the business to direct you. I did that. It allows you to adapt to the needs of the business and your customers and not build this thing as you have imagined it in your head, that might not be what is best of necessary. And don’t be afraid of failure, its scary, but its inevitable; so you just need to focus on the wins and keep on going!