Born and bred in Penang, Malaysia, Shen grew up as a hip-hop enthusiast; dabbling in rap music and graffiti art in his early years. Stemming from his hobby of designing his own t-shirts using Dylon fabric paint, he bought a blank trucker cap in 2007, with the intention of customising it with his own signature “tags”. After brooding over what he should scribble across the cap to make it his own, he settled for the word “LANSI” – cocky, or arrogant, in the local lingo. And that’s how the first LANSI cap came about.
Inspired by the growing streetwear culture, and the lack of affordable yet genuine fitted caps in the Malaysian market, Shen decided to start his own clothing brand in 2009. After persuading his parents for their consent, he literally withdrew his entire life savings (of RM5000) to produce the first batch of LANSI fitted caps. Fueled with self-confidence that his caps will sell like hotcakes, Shen went around streetwear boutiques around Kuala Lumpur hoping that they would carry the caps in their store.
None of them were interested, at all.
With no shops willing to sell the caps, and no money to open one of his own, Shen decided to leverage on the rising popularity of social media – in other words, marketing and selling his caps through Facebook. By 2010, the brand had gained a significant online following. Shen then teamed up with two of his high school buddies, Jason and Ah Kan, to start an online store business where people could order the LANSI caps through a proper channel instead of random Facebook messages.
And that’s when The Swagger Salon was launched.
From the initial production cost of RM5000 in 2009, not a single cent has been further invested into the business capital. Yet, The Swagger Salon has expanded to become to a full-fledged clothing brand – selling t-shirts, jackets, workwear, and accessories, in addition to the now notorious LANSI caps. The LANSI brand has since sold out all of its releases, been featured on national TV, censored on national TV, bootlegged by pirates, and established itself as the leading streetwear clothing brand in Malaysia. All this, without spending any money on advertising or paid media.
The Swagger Salon/LANSI story hopes to inspire many others to achieve what some may say is impossible – to build a successful business with close to no money, fueled only by true passion, awesome ideas, hardcore determination, and whole lot of ass-kicking attitude.
After all, confidence breeds excellence.