SOKO redefines the aesthetics of ethical fashion. SOKO artisans use locally-sourced and eco-friendly materials, such as recycled brass and reclaimed cow horn and bone, to create modern designs that appeal to the urban woman. By connecting these artisans with the fashion consumer, SOKO helps these entrepreneurs build their own businesses, improve production capacity, and sustainably increase income. We caught up with co-founder, Gwendolyn Floyd, to pick her brain about the future of SOKO, the industry and her favorite things to do in Kenya.
What inspired you to create your own brand/company? Where did your story start?
Realizing that there was a very tangible need for something that impacted larger communities but didn’t sacrifice design and ethics. We really don’t think that incredible design and ethical products should be mutually exclusive. When creating the brand, we were focused on bridging these gaps and bringing ethically sourced jewelry that is trend forward and relevant to diverse audiences.
As your brand continues to grow, what creative endeavors do see on your horizon?
We are launching into handbags, home goods and expanding not only the product categories that we’re providing our customers but also the geographies where we manufacture our goods.
Who is your muse? Describe the Soko woman.
The Soko woman loves the artistic nature of fashion, is super intelligent, and willing to challenge the status quo. She is very much a woman who understands the relationships between global policy, culture, fashion and beyond. A woman whose value set sees no boundaries between those things.
What are your favorite places to eat, drink, and shop Kenya?
Kenya is filled with so many hidden treasures that it is almost impossible to collect them all. There’s a really cute Spanish designed, Rwandan brand called Milles Collines that has a great little shop. The markets are an incredible place to hunt for cool vintage pieces, unique textiles and little bits and bobs to decorate your space. I love grabbing Indian Food at Diamond Plaza—the Indian food in Kenya is amazing. Also, Nairobi has an impressive brunch scene so it’s fun to collect boozy beverages from each of the local spots on a Sunday morning.
In a perfect world, where do you see the hand-made, “slow-fashion” industry in the next five years?
At Soko, we feel like we’re pioneering ethical fast fashion and truly believe this is the ultimate direction that the industry is moving in. Our challenge is to create and deploy best in class innovation to empower all stakeholders. This is truly an effort to ensure that customers have on-trend, on-time pieces and that our artisan community can grow in such a way that increases their annual income and power at the global scale.
How has technology & the spread of M-Pesa helped Soko artisans grow their business?
The development of our technology is really the fundamental basis for all that we do—it is a real-time source in capturing customer orders and then dispersing them across our artisan network. M-Pesa is a credit-less, branch-less banking solution which enables artisans even if they don’t have bank accounts or credit history to receive working capital, payments, and asset financing all through their mobile phone. Which in turn means they can conduct and grow their business using Soko’s platform.