Last week, Romy Samuel and Sophia Chang‘s fledgling site Common Ace officially took flight as an online retail site designed to provide direction and ease for women who love sneakers. As curated by Chang and Samuel, thousands of sneakers can be sorted by brand, color, size and price with silhouettes ranging from Nike‘s uber-classic Air Force 1 to the highly fashionable Maison Margiela Tabi hightop.
We caught up with Chang and Samuel and had a cool exchange about what inspired them to launch the site and the challenges of building something for women within sneaker culture and of course, their own most treasured silhouettes. Check out the exchange below.
Snobette: Take us through your relationship with sneakers, when did it start, how has it evolved?
Romy Samuel: “My love for sneakers stemmed from a few different avenues. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia which is a very urban creative, foodie city and very multicultural which definitely cultivates a strong skater/art community with lots of trance parties and pubs!
“My father was a menswear manufacturer from the ’70s through the ’90s with a huge lean towards sportswear. I spent my school holidays in his warehouse as an only child rummaging through boxes of samples, shoes and accessories. He loved his sneakers and I remember as a teen his early ’90s [Nike] Agassi Air Techs and distinctly remember thinking, ‘These are so cool! Why can’t I get these in my size!?!'”
“My own evolution has been influenced by having lived in five major world cities synonymous with street culture. This experience developed my connection to the community over the years and ultimately led me to Los Angeles to follow my dream to contribute to this industry and bridge the gap between men and women in this world.”
Snobette: What’s the meaning behind the name Common Ace?
Romy Samuel: “Simple: Common equals community and Ace equals No. 1. Ace also just happens to be my son’s name too and a very common slang word in Melbourne for cool!”
Snobette-Romy: You’ve lived in New York and Los Angeles, have you found bonuses or inconveniences to being on either coast?
Romy Samuel: “Both coasts have their own unique vibe and pros and cons like anywhere. Sunshine and palm trees on one side and culture, art, action and diversity in a melting pot on the other. It’s such a matter of preference and what one gravitates to energetically.”
Snobette: Why do you think it’s important for women who are part of sneaker culture to be involved in the business of sneakers?
Sophia Chang: “Same reason why we would need diversity within leadership. Different backgrounds, training, perspectives can create better well-rounded approach.
“It’s an exciting time within the women’s movement with identity awareness and just the overall dialogue. Though energies are high, we will come out of this shift with better clarity with who we are as individuals. That self-awareness will ripple into our daily lives, work lives, and creative output. As much as there’s a push for a shift in our politics and society for better pay and equality between genders, women can take a stand by claiming their seat at the table in all industries across the board, including the sneaker industry.”
Snobette: What have been the most interesting aspects or learning opportunities with launching Common Ace?
Sophia Chang: “Every project is an opportunity to sharpen tools. The best is when you have to solve new problems. I think that’s a huge space for growth. As Kendrick Lamar put it, ‘When the opportunity presents itself, it’ll put you in a place you can never imagine,’ That said, I’m always happy to sharpen skills and gain new ones.
“One big challenge has been switching gears between having clients give you money, to you asking for money. The process of raising capital is extremely exciting and thankfully Romy and myself have an amazing supportive community that’s been lending a hand. We’re learning the process together and it’s been a journey to go through rounds of feedback, processing feedback, learning new vocabulary and just where we can navigate in this space. The future is bright!”
Snobette: What are your top three sneakers possessions and why?
Romy Samuel: “All my Adidas Stan Smiths for super sentimental reasons. They were my dad’s most worn shoes back in the ’80s and I distinctly remember putting them on my feet as a six year old. Though I don’t wear them as often as I’d love to, I have them tattooed on my arm. Then, Nike and Off White‘s Air Force 1 Tens from 2017 It was the first raffle I ever won. I nearly cried when I won them, and it’s still one of my favorite silhouettes to date. Yeezy 500 Blush, the design is genius and unparalleled. There’s no other shoe like it and in the year 3077 it will still be cool.”
Sophia Chang: “Obviously I have to name Nike Air Force 1 Lows. They’re a huge staple in New York and also just an iconic shoe during my personal upbringing. There were a lot of memories in that model! My easy go-to when I’m just lazy is a pair of Vans checkered slip on. They look great, good hit of pattern, eye catching, and just great when you’re lazy! Is it okay if I say Timbs? A classic wheat mid-top Timberland boot is classic for the stomping the concrete jungle. I’ve hopped over slush puddles gracefully in those boots through the years and it’s always been a personal staple.”
Snobette: While Rime in New York is now closed, women-centered or women-friendly sneaker boutiques are rare in North America. Have you faced any misunderstandings about the clientele you want to serve?
Romy Samuel: There have always been many obstacles for the female clientele when it comes to sneakers, let alone boutiques. Lack of variety, sizes and styles to say the least and the majority of boutiques in the United States if not globally have always paid less attention to the female customer until recent years which still has left a lot to be desired.”
Sophia Chang: “We have more wins than losses that we can track. With a lot of praise also comes raised brows. At the end of the day, unless you’re a part of the scene or close to the scene, you’ll have a hard time grasping what we’ve accomplished here. It’s hard to really put yourself in the shoes (pun intended) when you’ve never had to search endlessly for a pair of shoes in person or online.
“But we’re here to solve the problem by building a superior tech infrastructure, packaged and powered by design. We know we are saving the day for a lot of sneakerheads (male and female) by creating this website but hope to convert more whenever people stop by.”