Meet the Pioneer of Ethical Fast Fashion Gwendolyn Floyd!
We live in a fast-paced world, and it pays to be quick… literally. When a consumer sees an item she wants on the Fashion Week runway, there is no waiting — she’ll want it now! Most people don’t like postponing a reward, which is why many fashion designers are giving into the ‘see now, buy now’ mentality and finding ways to expedite the process. Still, the demand for immediate purchasing options is at an all-time high, and an increase in demand comes at a price! When we shift our focus to how quickly a product can appear on retailers’ shelves, we tend to lose attention to detail — including sustainability and ethical manufacturing. Using her expertise in mobile innovation, Gwendolyn Floyd founded the fashion-tech company Soko, whose purpose is to connect entrepreneurs to the global market demand with ethical fast fashion. All of Soko’s goods are handmade at accessible prices and combine high quality with contemporary design for an ethical alternative to stylish accessories!
This #BossLady is truly changing the future of fashion, and we couldn’t be happier to share it with you! Gwendolyn Floyd will be sharing her entrepreneurial journey at the Simply Stylist ‘Do What You Love’ New York 2016 Fashion & Beauty Conference, but check out our Q&A below to learn more about Gwen:
SS: Can you tell us more about Soko? Soko is an ethical fashion brand #byhumansforhumans that is founded on the concept of real beauty. We believe that for things to be beautiful, the systems that create them must also be beautiful.
The Soko Collection is handcrafted from sustainable elements, designed to be every day yet one-of-a-kind classics. Our collection features ethically-sourced and upcycled horn and bone, statement necklaces, and architectural brass. Soko’s designs are inspired by the cultural and creative contexts our artisans are coming from combined with the latest international trends. You can find our pieces at www.shopsoko.com, at retailers like Reformation, Nordstrom, and Galleries Lafayette, 100’s of global boutiques, and being worn by celebrities and tastemakers ranging from Emma Watson, Guarance Dore, and Nicole Kidman.
Soko is all about the empowered woman at work, from the artisans that create Soko jewelry to the incredible women that purchase and wear the pieces. This sentiment has influenced everything in our business from the innovative artisan impact to the jewelry design. Be it a busy mom, working professional, or female artisan accessing unprecedented opportunity to earn income and grow her business through Soko, we feel that Soko’s accessible statement pieces embody the power and beauty of women with purpose. We want our pieces, handcrafted out of ethically sourced and upcycled material, to represent the empowered women that made them while empowering fashion forward women to wear incredible contemporary design that is helping change the fashion industry for good.
SS: What is ethical fast fashion? Why do we need it? At our core, what Soko does is use design and innovation to create creative connections between people and concepts that have not been traditionally associated with one another to disrupt the current broken standards of manufacturing. Soko has combined seemingly contradictory concepts - tradition and trend, fast and slow fashion, and handmade and high-tech to pioneer what we call ethical fast fashion – providing close to real-time trend responsive accessories that are both price sensitive and socially and ethically handcrafted by marginalized creatives living and working in the developing world. Ethical Fast Fashion is our way of producing stylish and affordable goods with the fastest speed to market. In this model, consumers can shop consciously by default, never having to make sacrifices in style and affordability.
SS: How does this benefit the Soko brand? The technology innovation that drives our supply chain enables us to compete with timelines of Zara and H&M but with radically transparent, ethical, and affordable production. This means we can stay on trend, drive unprecedented economic opportunity to the artisan communities we work with, and provide the mainstream market with luxurious, ethical product they can afford.
SS: How do you see ethical fast fashion positively affecting the industry? Our model supports us to connect women across the world to create a new and more just model of international trade. Ethics are part of Soko's DNA. This means that ethics drives every part of the business, from the ethically sourced and upcycled materials we use to supporting artisan entrepreneurship to pushing the fashion industry to embrace transparent and ethical production.
The artisan industry is the second largest employer in the developing world. It is also one of the most disenfranchised. Most production happens in small, informal workshop settings and sales are limited to the inconsistent, limited local market, trapping artisans at or below the poverty line. Soko overcomes the barriers that artisans face in ways that have only become possible because of the mobile revolution.
Soko’s supply chain innovations use the technology already in their hands, the mobile phone, to transform production at workshop level, enabling us to match marginalized developing world artisan production with real-time global demand for Soko’s designs. We currently coordinate over 1800 independent artisans via mobile technology into a real-time, distributed production model that we call our “virtual factory” – a mobile phone-driven supply chain that coordinates opportunity, production, and fulfillment with no centralized point of production or overhead. This results in a model so efficient and affordable that artisans retain an unprecedented 25-35% of revenue (increasing their income on average by a factor of 4 within 2 months of joining Soko!) while Soko is able to compete on price and timelines in the mainstream market.
SS: What is the most rewarding aspect of building Soko from the ground up? It's been a crazy and fun journey building a whole new model of fashion sourcing and production, and we're excited that the triumvirate of style, tech innovation, and social impact that Soko provides is resonating with direct consumers, retailers, and brands. The entire industry wants tools and product that satisfy a consumer market hungry for affordable, ethical, and stylish product and we're proud to be able to be one of the first to provide all three.
Don't miss Gwen on the #SimplyStylistNY Entrepreneur Panel — Purchase your tickets HERE!