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How my Chemistry PG took me into Fashion

Wondering how a postgraduate qualification can help your career? We spoke to Caroline Woods, who went from being a graduate of Imperial College to setting up her own online sustainable fashion platform called Clotho.


What Did You Study at University?

I studied Chemistry MSci at Imperial College. I took part in the Climate-KIC Journey, a programme I’d heard about through friends and applied to join as it sounded like fun. 

I chose Imperial to study my qualification because I wanted to go to a well renowned university and study in London.


What Was the Best/Worst Thing About Studying Chemistry?

The best thing about studying chemistry was the chance to push myself academically and learn lots by working alongside incredibly smart people both on my course and through extra-curricular projects.

The worst thing was the exams - I hate exams.


Would You Do Anything Different?

I believe there is no point in having regrets, so no, I don't think so.


What Advice Would You Give to Anyone Thinking About Studying Chemistry?

I think that studying science and engineering is a great way to learn about the world and improve your ability to think in a rational and critical way. It's hard but it's worth it, so I would say it's definitely worth the effort.


What Happened After You Graduated?

After I graduated I knew I wanted to end up doing something entrepreneurial in the sustainability space - as I believe the global environmental challenges we face are some of the most important and pressing. I decided there was no time like the present and so I started an online clothes exchange business with my friend and ex-chemistry lab partner.


What’s The Best Thing That’s Happened in Your Career?

Getting to work with my best friend on something that we love.


What Job Do You Do Now?

We are growing Clotho into a destination for sustainable fashion, where girls can recycle their old clothes through our clothes exchange and shop in an environmentally friendly way by purchasing other second-hand and up-cycled items.

Every day is different, which is why I love it. It may involve sorting through clothes and deciding which items to list in our shop, shipping orders, promoting the business to new customers or thinking of new ways to grow the business.


What Skills Do You Need In Your Job?

Probably the most important skill is to be a good listener. We listen carefully to our team, our customers, our advisors and our investors every day. The tricky part is to then synthesise all the information and advice and try to work out what the best next steps for the business are. There are a lot of decisions to make so we are continually trying to make sure we make the best calls. I make a lot of "pros" vs. "cons" lists. 

It's also really important to maintain good relationships. Circumstances can change so quickly when you are a start-up and so you never know who might be able to give you a helping hand to take the next step.

Finally, another skill is balancing work and life to make sure I can give the business your best self. Vivien and I are both so passionate about making Clotho work that we believe in working really really hard to turn our vision into a reality. We're both still learning that working hard doesn't always just mean working long hours - we need to keep ourselves happy and healthy and positive each day to make sure that we don't lose momentum and motivation.


What Does the Future Hold For You?

I want my future to be about building sustainable businesses that help to protect our planet and improve people’s lives. I believe that businesses have the power to create huge positive effects on people’s lives and the environment, and I want to be part of making that happen. For now, that's by getting young women to buy clothes in a more sustainable way.


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