I am slightly obsessed with the intersection of design, empowerment and technology and the potential it has to change the world. The global fashion brand Soko is such a great example of how innovative strategies can provide access for female artisans in Africa to the global market to empower not only themselves, but also their families and ultimately their communities.
I lived in South Africa for six years. During this time, I worked closely with community health workers in some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country to help them create sustainable income generation projects to supplement their modest budgets, which were little to none. This was no easy task. Many of the women were artisans who sold to their local communities but struggled to make a profit. The successful ones were able to get their products into larger tourist shops, but this was rare. The artisan markets in larger cities were often cluttered with rows and rows of beaded animals and necklaces that all looked the same. I will admit I bought several of the beaded zebras and giraffes to decorate our home and I am so happy I did. However, a majority of the artisans could have really benefitted from holistic support from mentorships in design and business, access to the supplies they needed, and a viable platform to reach the global market.
This is where Soko really knocks it out of the park. They use the power of mobile technology to connect artisans in developing countries directly to retailers and online customers around the world. These artisans create products with a modern aesthetic that appeals to the international marketplace. I wish I had an unlimited budget because I would definitely buy the dash cuff, the X Pop V necklace, and the flat top ring for all my friends and family. They are all modern and beautiful and would look fabulous with a white t-shirt and my favorite pair of jeans. Hmmm, maybe I will just buy them for myself for now ;)
Visit www.shopsoko.com to see their full selection of products including the dash cuff seen in the image at the top of this blog post selling for $68.