Jane Dua and Michelle Williams on changing the face of sustainability and diversity with nunchi
Describe nunchi in a few words:
We’re on a mission to redefine luxury to include sustainability, inclusivity, and retail activism. Named after the Korean concept of ‘nunchi’ (an innate connection to society), we’re building a brand that is sustainable in theory and practice. That includes everything from sustainable materials, such as recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds, to sustainable business practices of body inclusivity, diverse representation throughout our production pipeline, and equity for people of color.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
We’ve been best friends for years and have always been passionate about retail – we each have over a decade of experience in the industry. We wanted to channel this energy into building a new concept of luxury, one that centered on being socially and environmentally conscious. To us, it’s not just jewelry – social activism and retail activism should go hand in hand. Fashion has had a long history of social injustices and discrimination; we want to disrupt this cycle by creating an inclusive space that fully represents our communities and minimizes our destructive impact on the environment.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Our biggest accomplishment to date is remaining true to our vision and ethos from the start. From its launch, nunchi has been dedicated to the quality of our products and creating a culture of equity surrounding them. We believe what we wear is so much more than what we buy. It is about limiting our impact on the earth, the communities we uplift through our actions, and the pursuit of a just and fair society. Our philosophy is pillared in three tiers: sustainability, ethical sourcing, and diverse representation. Unlike [insert green-washed companies here] that trumpet these values only after calls for accountability, nunchi not only strives for these ideals, it is a product of them.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Rest for us looks different depending on what our bodies need at the moment. Sometimes that could be spending time laughing with friends and family, or going for a quick run along the water, or sometimes it is binge-watching a Netflix series in order to decompress and recharge our internal batteries for the week. It’s extremely important to be able to step away to relax to avoid burnout – something we have both experienced at previous companies. We are Co-Founders and business partners, but our primary relationship is our friendship (our sanity, by extension). As best friends going into business together, we knew the stress and mental toll entrepreneurship could take on our relationship – it is no secret that working with friends or family can sometimes be a recipe for disaster. But we’re determined to change that narrative. We vowed from the start that we would be open and honest with each other, understanding that there were bound to be difficult conversations in our future but we’d approach each one with no ego and the mutual understanding of positive intentions. We take time to check up on each other and having that support system has been invaluable.
What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?
We have recently launched at Wolf & Badger (certified B Corp retailer that partners with sustainable and ethical small businesses) and De Essentia (a slow fashion boutique featuring luxury & designer styles from Black fashion houses around the world). We’re also hosting our first community event at Kitsby, an Asian-founded brand bringing people together through sweet moments and desserts. For three hours, enjoy a *free* mimosa bar, some tasty bites, and a DIY friendship bracelet station to gift your BFF.
What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
We’re so excited to be Entreprenista League members because it means we’re surrounding ourselves with other entrepreneurs who believe in new industry standards and aim to be impactful through their work.