The Black-owned, women-led ethical jewelry brand connects artisans in Kenya with a global marketplace.
HOW IT STARTED
The craft sector is the second-largest employer in the developing world, yet it's also one of the most marginalized. Millions of talented makers face the limitations of local sales and cannot earn enough money to support their families. As a certified B-Corp™, SOKO understood those realities. Creating quality jobs was the key, and providing access to cell phones became a path forward.
SOKO developed a mobile app, dubbed the virtual factory, that connected the artisan network with the international market. It's a simple way to receive orders and digital payments. They also provided training to improve skillsets and help makers build their workshops and workforce.
SOKO's jewelry explores form, materiality, and artisan techniques. Most pieces are made of recycled brass and plated in 24k gold. Color, pattern, and texture are added with other locally sourced elements.
Brass: Nearly 90% of all brass is recycled, making it an accessibly priced alternative to gold. SOKO sources its brass from local markets and vendors.
Gold Plating: To keep production local, they invested in training and upgraded their headquarters in Nairobi to include a gold-plating lab.
Silver: SOKO's silver is created from recycled brass plated in chrome using electroplating. They re-use the water during this process for maximum efficiency.
Ceramic Beads: Kazuri, Kenya's celebrated fair trade women's collective, produces SOKO's beads. After digging clay from Mount Kenya, each bead is fashioned individually and painted by hand.
Glass: Recycled glass is sourced locally for some of the more colorful styles.
Horn and Bone: SOKO artisans ethically procure these materials, which are a byproduct of the food industry in East Africa.
Wood: Off-cuts of teak (that was sustainably harvested) are sourced from a Nairobi-based partner, all leftover pieces that would otherwise go unused.
TODAY IN KENYA
Today, artisans working with SOKO earn nearly five times more than the average maker in East Africa. Their collections are available worldwide, including at Amour Vert, both online and in-store.
Lifestyle images by Katie Jones, stills courtesy of SOKO.