LONDON — Sojo, the British clothing alterations app, is making strides, raising $2.4 million in a pre-seed funding round led by CapitalT and Ascension, with participation from Mustard Seed Maze and Vertex Albion Capital.
An announcement is expected on Tuesday.
The app connects clothing brands, and consumers, with individual seamsters who can mend, alter or tailor new or pre-loved clothing. The app has many aims, according to its 24-year-old founder Josephine Philips: It wants to extend the lifetime of clothing, and generate work for the many small seamster businesses on high streets across the country.
“The aim is to increase the circularity of clothing and decrease its carbon footprint. We want to be a disruptor in the space,” said Philips, adding that the company has an “international mind-set” and she’d like to see the business extend far beyond the U.K.’s borders.
Her other ambition is to help “centralize a fragmented industry” by creating a community of seamsters and give them exposure, and a steady flow of work, via the app. A vintage clothing aficionado and former intern at Depop, Philips wants to remove some of the barriers to buying pre-worn clothing.
She believes the app will free consumers to buy what they love and not worry about whether they can find someone to alter it, or try to alter it themselves. “We don’t want any botched jobs to happen,” she said.
Philips is certainly filling a niche as London, and other European cities, can be hit-or-miss when it comes to alterations. If alterations cannot be done in-house by a brand, it can be time-consuming for shoppers to find a qualified seamster who can do the work in a reasonable period of time.
Sojo uses software that allows brands and customers to book alterations, with bicycles making deliveries on each end. Sojo operates on a direct-to-consumer and a business-to-business model and makes its money by taking a commission from the seamsters to whom it sends work through the app.
The customer doesn’t have to visit the seamster’s shop. They can send an existing garment as size guide for the alteration work.
The focus at the moment is on the b-to-b side of the business, “getting brands on board and enabling them to offer tailoring to customers and free repairs,” Philips said.
Sojo launched its b-to-b offering last November, partnering with Ganni, which now offers free tailoring and repairs to all of its London-based customers. There are seven or eight new b-to-b partnerships set to launch in the second quarter, Philips added.
Sojo’s direct-to-consumer business remains a priority. Philips relaunched the Sojo app in March to further streamline the user experience.
The latest funding will be used for hiring about 10 staff in jobs such as marketing, customer acquisition and operations. The app only operates in London right now, but the plan is to extend it to 10 U.K. cities, with deliveries via post, too.
Philips founded Sojo just after graduating from university in June 2020 in a bid to solve the problem of what to do with vintage pieces that she loved, but were not in her size. Her dream is for it to become an international service.
The $2.4 million comes in the wake of 300,000 pounds raised last September from angel investors including Simon Beckerman, founder of Depop; Yael Gairola, former chief operating officer of Pangaia; Whitney Hawkings, founder of Flowerbx; Peter Hawkings, vice president of menswear at Tom Ford, and Sharmadean Reid, founder of The Stack World.
Janneke Niessen and Eva de Mol, founding partners at CapitalT, said they invested in this latest round because “we need more circular solutions. In the last two decades, we have extracted, processed and consumed more material resources than ever — and yet we’re recirculating less than 10 percent of those resources globally.”
They noted that, in fashion, the vast majority of processed materials “ends up in a landfill or waste incineration plant. Bridging this gap between what is being done, and what needs to be done, is not an easy challenge. We are excited to back the Sojo team as they make fashion circular.”