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 scribbled the word "LANSI" — cocky, or arrogant, in the local lingo, across a blank trucker cap of his. And that sparked the idea of turning LANSI into a brand itself.
Inspired by the growing streetwear movement, and his roots in the hip-hop culture, Shen decided to start his own line of fitted caps in 2009. He emptied his entire savings of RM 5000 to produce the first batch of LANSI caps. Fueled with self-confidence that fellow streetwear and hip-hop aficionados would share the same enthusiasm about his caps, Shen went around streetwear boutiques in Kuala Lumpur hoping that they would carry the caps in their stores.
None of them were interested at all.
With no shops willing to consign the caps, and no capability to open a store on his own, Shen decided to leverage on the rising popularity of social media to market and sell his caps online. By 2010, the brand had gained a significant online following. Shen then teamed up with two of his high school buddies, Jason and Jian, to start an online streetwear store as a proper channel for people to place orders for the caps.
And that was when The Swagger Salon was established.
From the initial production cost of RM5000 in 2009, no additional funds have been further invested into the business capital. Yet, The Swagger Salon has expanded to become an independently-run multibrand clothing label — featuring a range of caps, t-shirts, jackets, workwear, and accessories, on its apparel roster. LANSI has since been consistently ranked as one of the best known local brands, been featured on national TV, censored on national TV, bootlegged by pirates from Taiping to Taipei, and rocked by people from all walks of life, while The Swagger Salon successfully established itself as one of the leading streetwear clothing labels in Malaysia.
In December 2014, The Swagger Salon marked another milestone by opening the doors to its first flagship boutique, located in the heart of George Town, Penang — the place where it all started. What was once a high-school daydream of having one's own store to hang out on weekends, has now become a reality for the founding partners-in-crime. And it still feels as though they're just getting started.
The Swagger Salon story hopes to inspire many others to achieve what some may say is impossible — to build and grow a business with little to no money, fueled only by true passion and game-changing ideas, until it becomes a sweet success.
After all, if your dreams don't scare you, they're probably not worth chasing anyway.