The other week I was asked by the lovely ethically Kate if I knew of anywhere to get homewares from and although I was incredibly humbled that she asked me, it also made me realise that this is an area of ethical and sustainable living I’ve completely skipped over. Fear not, I’m now on the hunt to find some incredible ethical and sustainable homewares to help the trip to Kmart and the likes be far less enticing as you’ll now have better quality, ethically made alternatives.
I recently started featuring online marketplaces as I think having one place you can go to buy fairtrade products is a lot easier than hunting for brands on their own. Plus, joint shipping and all that epicness. Commune Bondi is one place that I’m consistently in awe of. Like most companies, I came across Commune Bondi on Instagram and have been an avid follower ever since. The easiest way to put it is that Commune provides those ‘insta-worthy’ products you want to own, except the products are handmade, fairtrade and sustainable. So your doing good for your house, and people and the planet.
For those that aren’t aware, Commune stands for ‘an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, often having common values and beliefs.’
Commune Bondi takes that idea and has set up shop in Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Commune was started in 2016 by Loren and Kristie, two Bondi locals that have a love for the ocean, handmade products, interiors and fashion. Like many of us they struggled to find sustainable, ethical, handmade and fair trade products so instead of seeing it as too hard and giving up, they launched Commune – a place where a community of artisans and conscious consumers come together.
They love the idea of being able to showcase their favourite brands and share the beautiful stories behind the brands, and the artisans who skilfully make them possible. And me? I’m thrilled to have found these epic legends that are making shopping for homewares (and incredible clothing) that little bit easier.
Behind the Brand:
An interview with Loren, the co-founder of Commune Bondi.
What made you start Commune Bondi?
I grew up on Bondi beach and for a long time I have wanted to open a clothing store here. After renovating my home in Bondi recently I found the task of sourcing natural/ rustic/handmade hardware, furniture and homewares frustrating. I found I had to source everything through Instagram when I would have loved to be able to go to a store close by to see and touch the product and hear the story behind them.
I had no idea how to manage a retail store so I approached my friend Kristie, who has worked in the retail/wholesale fashion industry for many years to come on board and manage the store. We then talked about what was important to us as individuals and we both have strong beliefs in supporting fair trade, ethically made, sustainable brands. We also knew there is a rapidly growing number of conscious consumers out there. We are also passionate about handmade products and wanted to showcase creations from artisans, especially Australian artisans.
We wanted to give Bondi a store where when buying a product you knew the name of its maker and a bit of the story behind it. So that when you bought that product you had this connection to it. Until recently we had become a society where everything is dispensable, a ‘throw away society’. We wanted to offer the public products that they can place value on, where when they buy they are buying for longevity.
What is something others wouldn't know about creating an online marketplace that you think they should?
You need to have good exposure and marketing to drive customers to your online store. It’s all well and good to set up an amazing online shop but if nobody knows about it, your sales don’t budge from 0. You need a good plan on what PR/marketing you are going to do.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since the beginning?
There is never enough time. I’m a mum to two young boys first and foremost and I underestimated the amount of work that goes into running a bricks and mortar retail business, even if I’m not actually working in the store most of the time. I do all sorts of jobs. Some on my own, some I share with Kristie from looking after the accounts, to the sourcing/buying/ordering of products, to driving out to whoop whoop to source plants at an amazing nursery, to replying to supplier and customer emails, to managing Instagram/FB, to actually working in store, to styling shoots, to creating newsletters and the glamorous buying of toilet paper for the store’s loo. Luckily Kristie is amazing at managing the store and helping with everything else in general. I don’t know what I’d do without a partner, we bounce ideas off of each other all of the time and have a great time working together.
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?;. In the scope of Commune Bondi, what are the criteria you require to decide what brands to stock?
We are essentially an 80% Fair Trade, Ethically Made, Sustainable product store. Wherever possible we would choose products defined by those three cornerstones. If a Brand does have the three cornerstones or even 2 then it is a perfect fit with our store. If the Brand doesn’t, but we really feel like it would be a great clothing line to bring to Bondi and our online store, then if we have the budget for it we will take it on. With our overheads (rent in Bondi is ridiculous!), we can’t just get by on brands that are ethically made 100% of the time. We are very particular in what we stock, especially in clothing style, and there is just not enough variety of brands that appeal to us that are ethically made so we need to fill the gap, otherwise we’ll go out of business.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Always follow your heart.
One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Surround yourself with people who can advise you in areas you are not familiar with in running your business.
Where do you envision Commune Bondi in the future?
At the moment we are happy to just build the brand for the next few years at least. After that who knows, there might be a Commune (enter suburb here) near you!
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
My mum, the kindest person you will ever meet and also a gun business woman who walks in her integrity always. Plus for Kristie and I, we both are inspired by Hannah Henderson from General Store. She is a super stylish mum plus runs this amazing, successful homewares store and seems to do it all with class.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Exercise! I either do a cross fit class, pilates session or a run every morning. It clears your head and energises you for the day.
One book everyone should read? Why?
Quiet by Susan Cain. I’m an introvert and it gave me a greater understanding of myself and my capabilities.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
There are so many inspiring people out there that we are all so lucky to discover so easily through avenues like Instagram. In our store there is one clothing brand that stands out the most with its commitment to ethically made clothing. It is LACAUSA meaning ‘the cause’ and founder/designer Rebecca Grenell’s underlying mission with her clothing line is to make quality garments locally under ethical conditions.
The LACAUSA factory is located in downtown Los Angeles with their offices directly above so they are on top of the pulse of where their garments are created. Closer to home we are inspired by Yoli & Otis and its founder Lena Catterick. Y & O are committed to making sustainable, handmade products. Lena has built her business from the beginning of when she became a new mother. To have such success in business while caring for young children is such a inspiration to us.