I'm Alan, a 23 year old Chinese-American designer who makes luxury clothing that can best be described as clothing that makes you feel like A KING. My brand, AKINGS is most distinguishable for its denim which has been seen on artists such as Lil Baby, Lil Nas X, Steve Aoki, Tyga, Famous Dex, and many more. Our signature J shape cut is unique because it allows people between 5'0'' to 7'0'' tall to wear the same pair of jeans. Although we have had our fair share of press and celebrity clients, I'm most proud of the community we have built around the brand, and the relationship I have with my customers. It is one thing to be able to make cool clothes, but to be able to have a close relationship with everyone who supports me and hear how they feel more confident with my clothes on is the most rewarding factor of what I do. I always get sent photos and tagged in stories of people wearing my clothes while traveling the world, or on set for a photoshoot, or even just lounging around at home, it makes me feel connected with everyone on a universal level.
I started designing when I was around 15 years old. At the time, I was tired of wearing hand me downs and not being able to find clothing that fit me properly so I decided to start making my own clothes. I first got into fashion through flipping "hyped" products like Supreme and Yeezys so that I could make money. I didn't have any sort of fashion background and everything I know about the industry now started with YouTube or Google University. I also taught myself how to sew and to be completely honest, I wasn't really good at it, which is how I ended up with a pant that was curved, which is now our bestselling J shape cut. The beginning of this journey was hard and because I didn't have the money to invest into manufacturing, I was personally hand-sewing pieces myself and selling to friends and people around me.
The decision to move from sewing my own pieces to manufacturing was a challenge I faced a few years ago. I wanted to be able to provide the standard of clothing that I envisioned and manufacturing was a completely foreign field to me at the time. Should I do it overseas? Who should I trust? How much can I invest? There were a lot of difficult questions that I had to ask myself and I overcame this challenge with help from friends and knowing really clearly what I wanted. Because I knew what I wanted, I knew that manufacturing overseas in Asia was the best option for me to scale my business and provide the prices and quality that I do right now. I also often face criticism for the prices that I set on AKINGS pieces. A lot of people say stuff like if you're not Gucci or Chanel, you shouldn't be selling $450 jeans. A lot of factors affect the pricing and it's hard to convey that to new customers that don't understand the problem we solve and the value we could add to their lives.
As an entrepreneur, my most important trait is that I'm consistent and clear about what I want and why I want it. It's extremely important to have these characteristics when you're running a business because it keeps you focused on where you need to go and what decisions you should be making. Being consistent and clear makes it possible for me to set goals for myself and my brand. If I had lacked either of those two senses, we would definitely not be where we are currently. Even during the pandemic, while a bunch of companies shut down, AKINGS was able to survive and thrive because of my consistency and clarity on what I wanted and why.
Yes. I used to work at a medical malpractice firm when I was in college but I ended up quitting the job and dropping out of college. The biggest investment I felt like I could make for myself was to invest in whatever I was spending on trying to create my brand. I saw my brand as my education - why pay $60,000 a year for that in college when I could try to learn that in real-time? To this day, building my brand is still my greatest investment in education. Each and every day I learn something new that I probably never could have in college and that was why I ultimately dropped out. I believed in what I was doing and where AKINGS was going and I wanted to pursue that.
Know what you want AND why. I've been told this advice several times and it applies to any field, not just fashion. When you know what you want, you can set goals and take actions to get there. When you add a why, it gives what you want an emotional connection and makes it incredibly more powerful. You need to understand your value before you try to sell it to someone else because no one will believe you if you don't believe in yourself. If you can't find the solution to a problem one way, change your approach time after time until you do. Success leaves clues and if you're ready to seek it, you will find it.
To be honest, I just recently joined AHN. But so far, I've met a bunch of fellow creatives that have shared stories of their brands and businesses with me and it's exciting hearing about others' success. I'm hoping that these connections I make will help me continue to grow my business and I hope I'll be able to provide guidance and advice to people that are in a similar position that I was as well.