Head to Ourcommonplace.com and you may be surprised that the online market, which sells ethical and sustainable footwear, fashion, home goods and beauty products is run solely by Sunny Wu, a 29-year-old Los Angeles native.
Wu, who is first-generation Taiwanese American, is passionate about giving a voice to brands that have championed inclusion, equity and sustainability across the retail industry. OurComonplace has become part of an ever-growing movement of innovative marketplaces that help consumers shop through a socially-conscious lens — among these spaces is Zerina Akers’ Black Owned Everything site. After working for LVMH for almost three years, Wu — who was involved with the travel side of luxury retail — realized she wanted to be on the other side of fashion’s not-so-chic waste issue.
“It was like my dream fashion job, but it was during the time when I was managing Burberry that the piece of news came out saying that they were burning merchandise and it didn’t sit right with me,” said Wu.
Although the luxury retailer has since said it ceased the practice of incinerating millions of dollars worth of unsold items, Wu decided to venture into the digital marketing industry, helping brands manage their budgets. In her spare time, she also volunteered with different nonprofits, staying involved with various women empowerment programs in places such as Argentina, South Africa and California.
“I really thought I was going to pivot into the nonprofit space at one point, but I just felt like I was too much,” said Wu. “I feel like whenever I go to meetings, I’m like hair, makeup, I like to dress up.”
Wu decided to quit her corporate job and create a marketplace of her own in 2019. “OurCommonplace ultimately lies at the intersection of all of my passion points being fashion, beauty, nonprofit and marketing,” said Wu.
She launched OurCommonplace after completing a Los Angeles-based incubator program called Grid110, which is sponsored by the city and supports budding entrepreneurs by helping them get access to mentors and other critical resources at no cost.
“Advisors have commented that I should start with one category, especially since I’m a single founder, but my vision was a marketplace, I didn’t want to compromise that,” Wu said.
Although COVID-19 dealt a blow to some OurCommonplace suppliers, Wu said e-commerce exploded in 2020. “People are more comfortable shopping online or they don’t necessarily have a choice,” said Wu.
The curation of OurCommonplace’s merchandise is also a strength for the online market. Divided into six categories, users can shop for products that are ethical, sustainable, cruelty-free, WOC-owned, BIPOC-owned and toxic-free.
“We’ve always had six values but some have changed,” said Wu. “One of our categories was U.S.A. made, but with everything that’s happening, I wanted to shed light on BIPOC founders so I added that last year and I’m wanting to add more,” said Wu.
Some of the brands OurCommonplace carries include AAKS, a BIPOC-owned bag brand that sells handmade raffia purses created by a women’s cooperative in Northern Ghana; Seven All Around, a sustainably-made footwear company founded by Korean designer Heesung Choi; and Aurore Lingerie, a London-based female-founded intimates company that uses deadstock fabric.
Wu is also passionate about educating consumers on how to use the power of their dollar to undo fashion’s bad habits. She manages a blog on the site, which covers topics such as greenwashing and fast fashion versus slow fashion.
“I see a lot of finger-pointing at big retailers. I agree they’re not doing the best job [by] saying that they’re sustainable and help the environment and [are] producing less,” said Wu. “But they still are producing a lot on a seasonal basis and not really taking that aspect of [overproduction] into consideration. That [issue also] exists because there’s a demand for [seasonal dress]. So we have to be held accountable as consumers as well.”