Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate all the moms out there, and Soko Jewelry thought it necessary to give back to Mother Earth this year.
This Mother’s Day, Gwen Floyd realized there was a mother who is often overlooked: Mother Earth. So she and her co-founders of jewelry brand Soko turned to Charity: Water for a way to do this. The non-profit provides access to clean water access in the developing world, which to Gwen, is the perfect gift to Mother Earth.
“We celebrate all the mothers, the mothers that benefit from charity Water’s amazing efforts, the mothers that work for Soko who can benefit their families in that way, but also Mother Earth and the concept of the life-changing resource that is water and all the natural materials we use and tying them all together in one campaign,” she says.
So her plan of action was simple: a five-piece collection based around the symbol of a water droplet, with 20% of sales going straight to Charity: Water. “[The collaboration] was so organic,” Gwen says. “Just such a perfect fit to the both of our commitments, to the continent and utilizing all of these recycled materials.”
From Soko’s launch six years ago, the brand has always been committed to sustainability, both for humanity and for nature. Gwen and her co-founders, Ella Peinovich and Catherine Mahugu, met in Kenya and decided to use jewelry to help make a difference in the world. They’ve had past partnerships with other institutions promoting change, including a collaboration with the UN to help end violence against women and children.
Even down to the brands roots, Soko aims to help people. “The vision was trying to take the next step in ethical fashion, where there are fantastic fair-trade companies out there,” Gwen explains. “But we wanted to be post-fair-trade by being even more ethical and having a greater impact to create what we call a ‘virtual factory model.’” What she means by this is that the brand works with Kenyan artisans to give them an platform to earn money using their traditional crafting practices.
Employing Kenyan artisan empowers families and allows them opportunities to become leaders in their communities. The heritage practice they employ is called sand casting, and it is a traditional method of casting bronze. It involves mixing sand with molasses to make a mold, which Gwen notes smells really nice. And then the molten metal is poured into the mold and the beautiful jewelry is made.
And Soko’s ethicality covers more than just the production—it goes into materials as well. “Everything is brass, everything is recycled brass, which is great!” Gwen beams. “We collect old door hinges and old car parts, then clean it and turn it into this really beautiful material.”
Soko recognizes the quality of the Kenyan heritage method of casting bronze. The brand makes use of smart technology and careful coordination of their supply chain to make sure they are able to meet their supply demand while maintaining their mission of sustainability.
“We wanted to prove that you don’t have to set up expensive factories and import injection molding machines from China to provide work,” Gwen says. “I think people have perspectives about what goes on in East Africa or informal communities but they’re incredible entrepreneurs. It’s about how to make ends meet or what are unique business models that they can do on the side to make money.”
And it was Soko’s devotion to their Kenyan workers that ultimately led them to Charity: Water as their latest collaboration. Gwen points out that in the developing rural communities most of their workers live in, water is a huge issue. She explains, “Usually, access to water is controlled by water cartels, essentially water gangs that claim they have the only rights to the water and make it expensive so that you can buy a small plastic bags of water for a lot of money.” So teaming with Charity: Water’s was a no-brainer. The non-profit’s mission truly resonated with Gwen and the rest of Soko. The goal to improve the lives of their workers is most of what the brand stands on, and giving back to Mother Earth is the rest.