Changemaker: SOKO Kenya
Changemaker is our series that highlights amazing work that is fueled by a passion and desire to change the world through sustainable efforts. Today we salute changemaker SOKO Kenya, a clothing manufacturing unit based in Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary in Kenya that aims to create a sustainable and creative long term solution to Kenya’s economic crisis by promoting community driven, ethical and environmentally aware trade in fashion.
When Joanna Maiden and her husband first visited Kenya in 2007 they were struck by how much the country was reliant on the unstable tourism industry. They saw the opportunity to fill a gap in the market – offer a transparent factory built on fair trade principles and at the same time provide the local Kenyan people with secure employment. Joanna reflects,
SOKO was set up in 2009 because we believed that fashion has the power and potential to make a positive contribution to society and to prove that a self-sustaining factory can have social and environmental principles at its core. That means fair wages, employment creation and making a meaningful difference to the local community.
With partners like ASOS (who took their first shipment one year to the day that Joanna moved to Kenya) SOKO has grown. Starting with a team of four, those four are now supervisors of a team of 50 people. Proving that sustainable development around apparel is possible, SOKO benchmarks include:
- 2012 SOKO moved from rented facilities and built their own eco-factory
- 2013 launched their Community Trust. The aim of the Trust is to provide the local impoverished community with the skills needed to gain employment. The Trust’s first project was the Stitching Academy Kenya, a sewing training facility teaching 40 people per year basic sewing skills and financial literacy to 40 people a year, skills that help them gain employment in a clothing factory.
- 2015 two of SOKO’s supervisors and longest standing employees received scholarships to spend three months in the UK learning about the fashion industry from the other side.
Plans for further development include launching the Hub, to provide further skills, career development and access to sewing machine facilities to graduates from the Stitching Academy and the Pipeline Roadshow, will provide financial literacy, young women’s health, family health training and eye tests to 1,400 people within the local community.
See and support SOKO’s work in the current ASOS Africa x Chichia collection.