Maggie Brown, a former volunteer for Loom, continues to work in the ethical fashion industry at Soko, an ethical jewelry brand. Soko works with marginalized artisan entrepreneurs to connect them with consumers through mobile phones, helping them build their businesses and create sustainable income. We got to hear from Maggie on what it's like to work in ethical fashion and where she see's the industry going from here.
Loom: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do for Soko?
Maggie: I work as Soko's Account Manager. I manage the majority of our existing wholesale accounts, as well as working toward growing our wholesale partnerships through trade shows and outreach.
Loom: How closely do you (or does your company) work with the artisans that make your jewelry?
Maggie: Unfortunately, I do not get to work with our artisans personally, since I work on the US sales side of things. Our company as a whole, however, has an extremely integrated model of operation. We have about 30 full time staff (mostly Kenyan), who work out of our main offices in Nairobi, Kenya. Soko has 3 female cofounders, 2 of which live full time in Kenya. By operating all of our production, operations, and fulfillment directly out of Nairobi, Soko is able to invest in the artisan community in an integrated and wholistic way.
Loom: What do you think is different about working for a brand like Soko than for a typical fast fashion company?
Maggie: There are a lot of differences, but the most important one is that Soko strives to create an environment in which the fashion world can work for the poor and the environment rather than against it. Our founders say that in order for things to be beautiful the systems that create them must also be beautiful. Soko works toward transparency, sustainability and ethical production in every aspect. This means that not only are the materials sustainable and ethically sourced, but the artisans producing the jewelry are retaining 30-35% of the revenue.
Loom: What is your biggest challenge in promoting ethical fashion today?
Maggie: We live in a culture that unfortunately promotes instant gratification. What that means for us as consumers, is that we often don't pause to consider the consequences of our purchasing decisions. The biggest challenge is in getting consumers and industry brands alike to transform the culture by considering the cost of fast fashion as compared to the positive impact of ethically-produced fashion can have on our environment and communities.
Loom: What is your favorite part about working in ethical fashion?
Maggie: It combines so many things I love. I love fashion and design, but I've always wanted to work in a field that has meaningful impact in people's lives. I love the work I do because I get to see the intersection of all of those things every day.
Loom: What made you want to go into this industry?
Maggie: Actually I think my 2 years with Loom led me to Soko. I have always loved fashion, but never considered pursuing a career in it. During my time with Loom I had the opportunity to witness the ways in which our purchases can make a difference in someone's life in very tangible ways. For some of the women at Loom, the paychecks they receive is the difference between paying their rent that month. The privilege of my experience with the women at Loom made me want to continue to be part of a company that was working toward positive change in people's lives.
Loom: How do you see the ethical fashion industry evolving in the near future?
Maggie: This is an exciting time in the ethical fashion industry. There are so many more brands offering transparency and ethical production than there were 10 or 15 years ago. I think the biggest evolution that is happening right now and will continue to happen is that consumers don't have to compromise affordability or trend-driven for ethically-made. Ethical brands like Soko offer fashion-forward products at accessible prices. I believe this evolution will eventually lead to a fashion industry in which ethical production and transparency is seamlessly integrated, rather than a separate subsection of fashion.
Inspired by traditional tribal designs and utilizing sustainable materials, Soko's jewelry is still minimalist and modern. Check out some of our top picks: