Modern minimalism is perfected in the White Horn Line Ring from Soko, a platform connecting makers in the developing world to other markets using mobile technology. The brass is upcycled as part of a ‘trash for cash’ program in Kibera, a community in Nairobi, sourcing the metal from items abandoned as trash such as belt buckles and door handles. These metal pieces are then melted down and cast into molds. The horn in the ring is locally sourced and reclaimed from Kenyan butcheries. Supporting artisans, recycling high-end, local materials, and employing beautiful design , Soko pieces are empowering to maker and wearer.Read the brand story
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*:Cast recycled brass and bone piece * Handmade in Kenya
Made by Hand
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Soko is an organization that uses mobile phone technology to bridge the gap between East African artisans and end consumers. Soko has developed technology to help artisans grow from working individually and informally, to creating profitable businesses. Promoting the use of upcycled materials and the practice of traditional heritage methods, Soko empowers artisans from around the developing world to share their talent online and earn a living wage from it.
Back in 2012, co-founders Ella Peinovich, Gwendolyn Floyd, and Catherine Mahugu met in Nairobi, Kenya, having all rented rooms in the same apartment building. Ella, an MIT trained architect, Gwen, a designer, and Catherine, a computer science rockstar, together co-founded Soko. Soko runs on a unique mobile phone technology platform that notifies artisans as soon as an item is ordered. Because about 95% of East Africans have mobile phones, the infrastructure already was in place - Soko just expanded on it.
As soon as an order is placed, a notification is sent to the artisan’s mobile phone with the customer’s geographical location. Once the product is ready, it is directly shipped to the consumer. Depending on skill level, artisans receive 15-40% of proceeds. Some artisans receive design inspiration from Soko, and often go back and forth with Soko’s designers to come up with different ideas. “From a design perspective, it’s incredibly dynamic and exciting and inspiring,” Gwen says.
“A huge percent of the profit goes back to the local community. Within two months of selling with the mobile technology, we see six times the amount of income, and artisans begin to hire helpers and reinvest their profits within the local community.”
Designs are made out of bone, horn, and brass. Artisans usually find their own materials by collaborating with different shops and communities to order bulk amounts of material. The materials vetting process is extremely important to Soko, and the artists are educated about the ethics and advantages of using certain recycled materials, or upcycling.
Much of the jewelry is made of recycled brass from old car parts. The brass is melted down in a mud kiln, and artisans use the lost wax process to cast jewelry, and other fabrication techniques that have been passed down through generations. While Soko does provide safety hardware, they prefer to let the artisans use their own equipment to preserve the authenticity of the goods.
Passionate about material honesty and transparency, Soko thinks of itself as a supply chain innovator. The brand celebrates contemporary aesthetics with generations upon generations of tribal production techniques and design aesthetics. Gwen hopes that this tandem of contemporary design and heritage values can be expanded to leathers and textiles in other developing areas, like Latin America and West Africa: “We are passionate about empowering creatives around the world to share their talent in a transparent and ethical way.”