HOW SOKO IS SUPPORTING ARTISTS + EMPOWERING WOMEN

2016_soko_stylized_hr-287By Ivan Padilla
Photographs courtesy of Soko

Originally founded in Nairobi, Kenya, Soko is redefining the aesthetics of ethical fashion, creating modern accessories that appeal to consumers while working with marginalized artisans who would otherwise lack the means to reach those consumers. With designs inspired by architecture and traditional tribal designs, the strong and minimal aesthetic make Shop Soko the perfect gift for that special someone in your life.

Soko is a company founded entirely by women who are known for their entrepreneurship and for reinventing their supply chain. We caught up with their team for a Q&A below and also curated a playlist together which you can listen to here.

Shop Soko at OAK

Ivan Padilla: Top 3 things shoppers should know about Soko?
Soko: That we are founded by women, for women. That to date, we’ve worked with 2,100 artisan network. That through purchasing Soko goods, they’re contributing to over $1M in artisan income (and counting!).

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IP: Something most people don’t know about Soko?
Soko: That the word ‘Soko’ is a Swahilian word means marketplace!

IP: What type of impact has Soko made on artisans’ economies, more specifically the lives of women in these countries?
Soko: We require that all of the workshops we work with have at least 50% women hires. Upon joining the Soko network, these artisans’ income have increased by 5X, which has resulted in an incredible financial and personal empowerment to the communities.

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IP: Where are most of your artisans based?
Soko: to date, we have worked with 2,100 artisans based in Kenya

IP: What is the creative process like? [From what I’ve read] Soko enables artisans to design in ways more relevant to today’s consumer — How is that made possible?
Soko: Our designer is one of our founders, Gwen, who is based in SF. She spends at least 8-12 weeks a yearin Kenya to source for inspirations and collaborate with the design team, source new finishing/ ways to improve our product quality. Although the designs do not come directly from our artisans, their stories have greatly impacted and inspired Gwen in the design process.

IP: What is the most rewarding part about working with these artisans? What has been the most rewarding part about empowering these women and fanning the flames of their entrepreneurial spirits?
Soko: Knowing that we are all somewhat connected. Last holiday season we launched the Kazi Cuff, the idea in which is the backbone of our company. This bracelet celebrates women who “werk” by connecting us through the meaningful work we do every day. CEOs, Supermoms, Trailblazers, and Creators–the Kazi cuff is made for you by women like you. Women artisans who have overcome their own unique set of challenges in Kenya to make their mark. Its simple yet meaningful design features the initials of the woman who made it next to yours–representing the power we share.

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IP: Describe Soko HQ
Soko: We’re small, dynamic, yet growing team based in SF’s Potrero Hills. We have a showroom in which functions for meetings or to hold popup event, and a light and airy open office space. We’re also committed to supporting local businesses, thus the items displayed in our showroom also includes local brands. We have a communal backyard which we share with our neighboring offices which are within the creative industry (the space used to be Victoria’s Secret HQ). Much as we religiously do #ThursdayTreats, we also have started the habit of doing office planks starting this year!

IP: Favorite part about working for Soko?
Soko: The company is growing so fast and it’s exciting to be able to wear different hats. We used to do our PR efforts in house, and as a small business it takes patience and perseverance to reach out to our target media list to share our story with their followers. It’s a lot of unopened emails and unanswered phone calls… It means the world to us when we finally convince Garance Dore, Vogue, Cupcakes + Cashmere, Cup of Jo, and Chriselle Lim (to name a few) to finally be on board! Beyond that, it’s also such a privilege to be working alongside inspiring leaders and team members who are equally passionate about the brand.

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OAK + Soko Spotify Playlist

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