Female Founder Spotlight: We All Stand Under This Same Sky With Sofiya Deva

Sofiya Deva is a global citizen (having grown up in India, New York and Dallas) who’s always had a passion for social entrepreneurship. So, in August 2020 she launched This Same Sky.

This Same Sky is a sustainable fashion brand dedicated to celebrating artisans from around the world through their craftsmanship and storytelling.

We caught up with Sofiya to hear more about what motivated her to start her brand, and how she’s disrupting the fashion industry from the inside out!

You’ve had a really interesting career journey! Can you tell me about the experiences you’ve had?

I've had a really unconventional career trajectory. But the funny thing is, the more people I talk to, the more I’ve realised, like Sheryl Sandberg says, careers aren't ladders, they’re a jungle gym.

I’ve done everything! I’ve taught yoga, I was an itinerant poet. I worked in a carnival.

I’ve always been a very strong writer. So for income even as I was in and out of college, I started freelancing. My sister had her own marketing agency that she started right out of college. And so I freelanced with her for a long time, but I never wanted to step into the business because I felt like I'm creative, I’m not business oriented. Eventually I realized being an artist and an entrepreneur don’t have to contradict one another. They can actually be a powerful hybrid identity.

How did the idea for This Same Sky come about?

I’d embraced my ambitious side and stepped in full time at the agency. I was leading strategy for household name brands and winning awards for creative campaigns that I'd put together. And then we started talking about equity, and really stepping into the company and becoming a part owner. And I realised, if I say yes to this, I'll be here for the next ten to fifteen years. I just felt that there was something else I wanted to do. It wasn't that I didn't love marketing - to me, marketing is truth telling at scale. But I also had an intense interest in social entrepreneurship...

With This Same Sky, it began with a romance with the handcrafted. My life as a marketing executive was so demanding, and hectic. I craved moments of slowing down and being more present. I felt that when something is handcrafted, it carries that energy, and can function as a mindfulness bell.

There’s also this part of me that's really connected to India. I wanted to reclaim my heritage, and I wanted to give back in some way. So I was like, okay, I'll work with artisans in India.

Why did you make the move into the fashion industry?

I've always loved fashion!

The fashion industry is newer to me, and I don't claim to fully understand it. I feel very much like an outsider in the fashion industry. But I think the industry is actually in need of outsiders, and in need of outside ideas and disruption, and maybe even people who come in and break things because they don't know better.

This Same Sky is all about celebrating artisans and uplifting their work. Can you share more about this?

Since I've started the company I have learned so much more about the true impact of the handicraft industry. It’s the second biggest employer, after agriculture, for women and rural populations in the developing world. It also offers a very flexible work environment, where women can earn money alongside taking care of their kids and homes.

And what’s harder to quantitatively measure but equally important is the cultural preservation aspect, where within these craft techniques, there's often entire identities and ways of life that are baked into them. In that way, the technique, whether it be weaving or dyeing or printing, is the vehicle for a heritage and lineage to be carried forward.

The more I've learned about handicrafts, the more passionate I've become about it as not only a personal inspiration but a real lever for global impact.

How is This Same Sky disrupting conversations around sustainability?

It’s been important to us to create accessible entry points into the conversation. We don't want it to feel like you have to have a PhD in sustainability to hang with us!

It’s fine if you think the designs are beautiful, and you like the story, and you're just starting to think about your shopping choices.

Something I think a lot about too is, how do we make sustainable fashion a more inclusive conversation? I think sometimes the way those of us who are more gung ho approach it is so rigid, that it is easy for people to feel judged or unwelcome.

So it’s about striking that balance where we’re challenging norms, whether they be one version of what’s considered modern and luxury, or how makers are treated, while also approaching the topic with curiosity and openness.

Ultimately, sustainability requires a cultural shift, and we won’t get there if we can’t individually feel safe enough to question and share our experiences of worth and value, representation and roots.

What’s your favourite piece from This Same Sky?

Right now, I really love the crescent scarf.  It has the grey and ivory colour, and it has the crescent moons and it feels really lush yet calming. I wear it on new moons and full moons, to help me set intentions.

It comes with the mantra of ‘be still’ and I feel like you can’t go wrong with that!

Image via Sofiya Deva

January 19, 2023
Shilpa Bhim