Stephanie Yu is a Los Angeles native who followed her heart to Colorado and has quickly become a pillar in the small business movement happening in Colorado Springs. Not only is she the founder of Wilder Bag Co., a sustainable fashion shop specializing in curated vintage and handmade jewelry, she is also the co-founder of Womxn of the Future, a popup market dedicated to local women owned businesses, a first in the region.
What inspired your advocacy for slow fashion?
I was really obsessed with being fashionable, standing out and being different all through high school. Then during college I got a job at the Gap for a couple of months. It was right when a warehouse collapsed in India and a lot of people, including a little boy, died. I brought it up to my boss the next day and asked “What do you think about this?” My boss basically said it wasn’t the Gap’s fault. She said they had contracts with warehouses in Asia and it was up to them to uphold the standards. I thought it was such a bullshit answer and not good enough. I quit the Gap that week and a couple of years later, after graduating college, I started working at Buffalo Exchange. That’s when I realized vintage was a thing and vintage USA made clothing was way better quality while still being affordable.
I went from one extreme of being super immersed in fast fashion all the way to selling 2nd hand goods and being a buyer at Buffalo Exchange.
What compelled you to start Wilder Bag Co. and go into the vintage clothing business?
I worked at Buffalo Exchange til 2011 and that was right before I left for Portland for my grad program. I went through my grad program working a 9 to 5 for a few years, and in 2017, 6 years later, I was super miserable. I was super depressed and I wasn’t healthy, and I wasn’t making enough money to make it feel like it was worth my MFA degree. I looked at my boss, and she had been working there for 20 years, she was 45, and even her end salary was still not worth it to me. So it hit me, that I didn’t want to work for other people.
I moved back to LA, and my first entrepreneurial venture was to be a real estate agent. I got my real estate license and I worked at a broker’s office. I quit that job and ended up working for my mom doing bookkeeping for a year and half. I was starting to save money and have enough to buy products to resell online. I started on Poshmark and in a month I sold almost the amount I was making working full-time at my previous job. I thought, “Oh my gosh, I can make this work and I love it.” When I told my mom, she was like, “That’s exciting! I support you. Maybe this is the thing you’ve been looking for.” It gave me the confidence to really give it my all and I started doing popups in LA and they were really successful.
What are your hopes for Wilder Bag Co. and it’s future?
My 5 year goal is to have a space where people can come and just know that we’re going to be there. So this would be a brick and mortar or mobile shop parked somewhere that’s consistent. Some sort of semi-permanent space. And I want there to be knowledge, things to read, design and art, good food and drink. However minimal to maximal that is. I want all the senses to be touched upon when people are in the shop.