By Sally Zhang
Growing up in Queens, New York, Sophia Chang adopted the sneaker lifestyle at an early age.
“Sneaker culture wasn’t even labeled back then, but it was deeply influenced by nineties music, arts, and graffiti,” says Chang. “You see a lot of beautiful art around you, and sneakers just became something I gravitated toward. Plus, you never know when you’ll have to run for a traffic light.”
After graduating from the Parsons School of Design with a bachelor’s degree in illustration, Sophia wanted to apply her skills to a niche community that she was passionate about—sneaker culture.
In 2019, Sophia met her now business partner, Romy Samuel, at a fashion event in Los Angeles. When Romy mentioned that she wanted to create a hub for the international sneaker community of women, Sophia was in. That was the start of Common Ace, a curated online market place focused on women and streetwear.
“Accessibility and variety has always been a major issue for female shoppers in the sneaker community,” says Sophia. “I noticed that I would find myself with multiple tabs open, scrolling, looking for one shoe that is the color I want, but then not finding my size for it. I found myself constantly hitting all of these walls, so I wanted to create an aggregator that allows us to pull product from multiple retailers all around the world and empower the customer to be able to shop.”
Crafting a story with data
The first step to creating the aggregator was to find out what women in the sneaker industry really wanted and needed. Sophia and Romy decided to put out a survey to collect data on women’s sneaker shopping habits. And it was important to them that not only they put together this data, but also that they share it with their audience publicly to help others shape the cultural space.
“We really wanted to cause a ripple effect for the industry and also encourage other corporations to do more research,” says Sophia.
The team worked on everything from crafting the survey, putting it out, getting the results, analyzing the results and building their story. As the illustrator and designer, Sophia turned the results of the survey into visually attractive social media posts. The entire process was extremely collaborative.
“Since our team is working remotely, everyone's tuning in from a different city from a different time zone,” says Sophia. “Dropbox is a really great hub for us to be able to all work at once and also be able to seamlessly share files.”
Six months since the start of the project, the team put out the survey results, and it was a moment of anticipation, but also excitement and pride. This is just the beginning of their journey.
“We'd love to be able to see a future with more female creators, as well as full size runs of their product and their designs,” Sophia says. “We'd love to be able to see more accessibility, whether it's actual brick and mortar retailers or digital online platforms that are selling shoes for women. We just want access to be widespread.”