China has developed a large consumer culture and with this has arose an experienced and knowledgeable consumer base who are seeking speciality brands developed from creative locals. The fashion label ShoKay created by Marie So is one such brand which appeals to the market through its sustainable and ethical practices.
ShoKay means ‘yak down’ and is the world’s first socially responsible fashion label which develops products from this fibre (Skoll 2015). Previously, yak down was an untapped resource in the fashion industry and ShoKay has worked directly with the farmers in western China to improve their quality of life while making high-quality goods. So’s company purchases the fibres directly from the Tibetan herders which has provided the herders with a 30% increase in their income (Wong 2011). As yaks shed naturally every year, there is zero pollution in this process. The fibres are then cleaned, dyed and spun into yarns. During the dyeing process the products are tested to ensure that they meet international health and safety standards to minimise risk to the environment and workers (Wong 2011). The yarns are then hand knitted or woven into luxury products by women living in rural areas, which provides them with long-term employment and income. Finally, 1% of its revenue is put towards a Community Development Fund which support the needs of rural Tibetan communities (Wong 2011).
Brands such as ShoKay are becoming increasingly important in the Chinese market place as consumers become more aware of their goods and the ethics behind them and therefore become more open to sustainable fashion (Qin 2014). Currently, some of the most brand conscious consumers are young Chinese people (Kuo 2016). This consumerist culture causes these young adults to become strongly affiliated with brands and to expect values which they can respect. As a result of inundation consumers are moving away from western high-end brands in order to develop their own sense of style among creative and cultural Chinese brands (Qin 2014). This is where ShoKay strives as it incorporates a traditional Chinese way of life with strong principles to create a desired high-end product.
Overall, So has revolutionised the yak yarn industry through the ethical and sustainable business approach to manufacturing and training. She has created a brand that resonates with the changing societal values of the Chinese population as they become more affiliated with brands of cultural and innovative standing.
China30s n.d., Interview SHOKAY founder Chyau: “social enterprise” to “sustainable fashion”, China, viewed 5 November 2016, <http://www.china30s.com/portfolio/a-%E4%B8%89%E6%98%8E%E6%B2%BB%E8%AE%BF%E8%B0%88-story/%E4%B8%93%E8%AE%BFshokay%E5%88%9B%E5%A7%8B%E4%BA%BA%E4%B9%94%E7%90%AC%E7%8F%8A%EF%BC%9A%E4%BB%8E%E7%A4%BE%E4%BC%9A%E4%BC%81%E4%B8%9A%E5%88%B0%E5%8F%AF%E6%8C%81%E7%BB%AD>
Kuo, Y. 2016, 3 great forces changing China’s consumer market, Hong Kong, viewed 5 November 2016, <https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/3-great-forces-changing-chinas-consumer-market/>
Shokay 2012, Community Development, viewed 5 November 2016, <http://www.shokay.com/world-of-shokay/>
Skoll 2015, Shokay International Group, China, viewed 5 November 2016, <http://skoll.org/organization/shokay-international-group/>
Qin, L. 2014, Sustainable fashion can help cut textile waste and pollution, China, viewed 5 November 2016, <https://www.chinadialogue.net/blog/7136-Sustainable-fashion-can-help-cut-textile-waste-and-pollution/en>
Wong, Z. 2011, Shokay Creating luxury yak-down products to alleviate poverty in Western China, USA, Cornell University