Stud - the sports brand created by two gay men in Malaysia fighting to break from the conventions of a Muslim society - celebrates the optimism of youth.
Their newest collection, "Of Uth and Brothers," features striking colors with bold messages such as "Wear It Proud" and "Made with Pride." It is the follow-up to last season's popular "Winner Takes All" line and continues Voon Lai's and Jonathan Cheng's spirited interpretation of the contemporary athlete. We spoke with Lai about the courage it took to create the collection, available now at LAJock.com.
"We met through friends in Kuala Lumpur six years ago" Lai said. "We were two designers who shared a feeling - or maybe even a calling - to do something different and out of the norm."
Choosing a name for the brand was easy, Lai said. Wanting something modern-sounding that was distinct and memorable, the two settled for the first name that came to them - STUD. But developing "Of Uth and Brothers" would prove much more challenging.
"To be honest, days were dark for us when we were creating this season's collection," Lai said. "We were producing fashions that many in our conservative Muslim country considered obscene. The backlash was unnerving. On two occasions, our website was hacked by Muslim fanatics from Indonesia."
Though they felt their creativity was being stifled, Lai and Cheng found strength in each other.
"We felt ourselves succumbing to the pressure and creating safer, less-provocative gear, all in the effort to avoid causing a stir," Lai said.
"But by yielding, we were losing the original vision for our brand. We realized we needed to channel the bravery we had as youth, when we felt invincible and that we could do anything we put our mind to. And we relied heavily on one another for support. We are lucky not to be alone in this venture. Jonathan is like a brother."
Their perseverance paid off. The new line is not only fresh and sharp but speaks to the power of drawing power from creativity.
"It’s a declaration to be comfortable with who you are and to be proud of it," Lai said. "We’re feeling extremely positive and energetic this summer, like children who are ready to conquer the world. And we think it reflects in our new collection."