Samson Soboye is the creative force behind UK label SOBOYE. We sat down for a chat with him about his brand of African Lux, his personal and business ethics, and his hopes for the future.
Tell us a little about your background and how your experiences growing up have influenced your work.
I grew up in Hackney, East London in a Nigerian Family. We had a religious upbringing and Sunday was our time to dress in our Sunday best. If you know anything about Nigerians, you know they love a party and need no excuse to dress up. Party attire tends to be flamboyant.
Growing up I saw a lot of bright colours and patterns so this has always been in my sub-conscious. I left school to do A-levels and after several years doing a few clerical jobs I decided to travel and spent the subsequent year travelling around the world ending up in Australia. I had a job in an Aboriginal Art gallery and worked in a fashion studio where I got the bug for it. On my return, I applied to Central St. Martins to do a Fashion course and and completed a degree in Fashion, Communication & Promotion. I’ve always loved travelling and wish I could do more but I’ve absorbed all my travel experiences which have seeped out in my work.
Soboye is an African Lux Brand. What makes a lux brand and how do you stand out and create a niche that sets you apart from other luxury brands?
SOBOYE is all about contemporary cuts and modern styling. It is aimed at a well read, cultured, arts loving, well travelled individual. We have been developing a bespoke service which now accounts for over 50% of the business. There is no mass production and rarely ever two of the same pieces in the collection.
How does your label maintain your ethics of sustainability and fair trade?
SOBOYE uses as only local factories for our collection production thus minimizing our carbon footprint. We donate as much of our leftover fabrics to either local schools or other designers, therefore promoting our zero waste policy. In the past we have used a lot of embroidery and there is nowhere that can produce to the standard of India. I researched a few factories and eventually worked with one that I visited in Mumbai. They had very good working practices – I learned that most of the employees doing the embroidery were men. They paid above the average wage and supported a lot of education programs. We operate on a conscious level in everything we do – down to who and where we buy our fabrics from. We source a lot of our fabrics locally. We donate to charities regularly. We also support a lot of fundraising initiatives for local causes.
You have taken on interns from local design colleges and universities. Is mentoring the next gen of designers something you’re passionate about?
Yes I am very passionate and committed to this. I have been taking on young designers for the last five years and have extended the reach as far out as Winchester and Southampton. It is a great way to pass on knowledge skills and experience in a live working environment. SOBOYE is a very small team so interns get involved at grass roots level operations from day one and get fully involved in all levels of running the business and contribute in the design process.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to anybody wanting to establish a sustainable, luxury brand?
Be aware – there are lots of ways to be sustainable and it’s the duty of everyone to be socially and environmentally friendly.
Where would you like SOBOYE to be in ten years time?