FEATURE | COMMONERS
Next in our feature series, we talk with Jae, Founder & Creative Director of Commoners.
Jae speaks with us about his journey into small business & the considered approach Commoners takes to designing & producing elevated essentials with a focus on quality & longevity ~ an ethos that resonates here with us at Flash.
Hi Jae! Tell us a little bit about yourself & your story - Where are you from and what was the journey & process like that led you to open/start Commoners?
I grew up in Gisborne, a small isolated town on the east coast of New Zealand. I moved to Auckland to study fashion which I dropped out of after only completing one year. I then moved over to Graphic Design to complete a diploma. Following the completion of my training, I worked for two well known and established NZ clothing brands in menswear design roles, before heading overseas in 2009 to spend a year travelling through the US, Europe and Thailand.
While traveling I had noticed the democratisation of fashion and the move towards low and high being worn together. This began the process of thinking about Commoners and the idea of Luxe without the luxury price tag. Fast forward to 2010 and I had taken a job with Emma & Dan of Blackbox Boutique (another one of your great Flash stockists!) as buyer/manager. I spent approximately four years in this role and throughout that time began to test the brand (Commoners) alongside some of the labels that were carried there at the time.
On the back of this success, we were able to begin stocking Commoners in other stores and at the end of 2014 I decided to jump into the brand full time and we hired a small team. We now have two Commoners bricks and mortar stores and supply around 25 wholesale accounts.
What values & ethos do you embrace & look for when curating brands and products for the Commoners stores?
The first thing we’ll consider is if the brand is a specialist in their product and that the particular product line is not something we already design ourselves. For example, we do not have any plans to design jewellery so Flash sits complimentary to our simple, considered approach. We are also more interested in curating classic items rather than trends with brands we carry, which comes back to the Commoners brand values within our own design process. So sharing that synergy with the labels we carry is really important.
Can you tell us where or who do you look to for inspiration, optimism and what keeps you moving forward?
Normally I am very optimistic and that optimism comes from more time spent planning and learning from your wins and losses. Taking those learnings and improving. However, the last couple of weeks have been really challenging with the fashion industry being one hit the hardest by the restrictions put in place. Clearly our country's health is the number one priority but I would be lying if I said I wasn't daunted by the unknowns.
I have been trying to use the time in lockdown to read and prepare for what the new normal might look like. That has meant re-thinking deliveries and how future ranges might take shape. For me, inspiration is always there as we continue to try and perfect the t-shirt, which is a centre point of the brand. More recently this has been simplifying and working on less, and how we can be better from an environmental perspective by not only using more earth-friendly fabrications in the design process but encouraging our customers to think about their buying to ensure they choose well.
Find out more at https://www.commoners.co.nz/