Soko’s founders - Catherine Mahugu, Ella Peinovich and Gwendolyn Floyd - met at an Information and Connections Technology development workshop in Nairobi. Computer Science graduate, Catherine has co-founded a number of mobile solutions including a location-based taxi app. Entrepreneur since the age of 20, Gwendolyn has run three ventures focusing on technology, design, and social impact. Having worked on social enterprises in and around the slums of Nairobi, Ella has founded a consultancy focused on producing locally sourced sustainable building materials.
Each on a her own path, they had something in common - unwavering belief that mobile technology has the power to grow young enterprise. And during their visit to the popular Masai Market in Nairobi, they knew exactly how. Having met the artisans, they realized that they craved access to a bigger market. And so, Soko founders created a platform that does just that. And more.
Bridging the gap between ethical and trend-driven affordable products, Soko’s aesthetic is heavily inspired by tribal designs and architecture - as well as Gwendolyn’s (in-house design team lead) travels and everyday interactions. And as the brand has evolved so has its designs. From bold and ethnic with a touch of modern flair. To classic and minimalist. Proving that ethical fashion need not come at the sacrifice of style.
We had a chance to catch up with Gwendolyn and get an inside scoop on Soko and her day to day.
What’s your typical day at the office?
Between Soko’s headquarters in Nairobi and our team in San Francisco, my days are anything but typical. When I’m at home in the Bay Area, I often take early morning calls with Kenya from home, then head into our office in Potrero Hill. I travel more than 50% of the year, so when I’m in San Francisco, it’s great to take advantage of the opportunity to spend time in person with our team here. While in Nairobi, where I spend about 2 months of every year, you can find me prototyping new designs with our artisans, developing our tech systems, or dreaming up new ideas with my two co-founders (who live full time in Kenya).
What are the 5 things you cannot live without?
Sunscreen, sunnies, a snuggling cat, internet connection, and mobile technology!
Who would you love to wear your pieces?
Some of our biggest idols have already worn Soko, such as Emma Watson, Zendaya, Nicole Kidman, and Lupita Nyong’o. Next, we’d love to see Blake Lively, Jessica Alba, or Serena Williams in Soko.
Where would you go in a time machine?
What superpower would you like to have?
Never having jet lag, the power of catnapping, and teleportation!
What's one cause that you would want people to rally behind?
Sustainable fashion! There are die-hard ethical fashion lovers that would go to the ends of the earth to support a smarter, better fashion industry, but unfortunately it’s difficult to convince the masses that quality, value, and trend-responsive style are all available in ways that don’t hurt the environment and people. Compromise isn’t necessary. It’s easily possible to have it all.
All photos courtesy of Soko