Within the 6 years since they launched, Malaysian label Shuren Projects has steadily built a strong reputation for their utilitarian clothing that straddles the line between casual and smart. It all started in 2011, when a group of five university students in their final year decided to do tap on each others strengths to do something together. It has been a struggle for the young crew, but they have built a steady clientele-base that appreciates their versatile garments that can be worn as part of a street style outfit or as part of daily work attire. As co-founder/self-taught designer Theng Wei puts it “I couldn’t really find clothes that I wanted locally, so I just wanted to make clothes that I myself would wear”.
We pop by their recently launched shop for a quick chat with Theng Wei and co-founder Daniel.
Why open a shop? As you guys were doing quite well by selling online and at stockists.
D: In the 80s or 90s, I think there were probably more boutiques like us, maybe not stocking your own brand, but small boutiques run by individuals within the community, where you actually know the people running it. We really like that idea.
TW: The timing was right too, as we kind of wanted to did it for quite some time. I used to rent an office and was looking a new place when the lease was about to expire, so I thought why not just rent a small shop lot with a storefront and office in the back?
How would you describe Shuren’s style and how it has evolved over the years?
TW: Not much difference from when we started, as we are still doing shirts and pants you can wear for work or play, just the range has increased. The brand ethos is still the same. I would describe us as functional lifestyle wear, as there is a functional element behind every piece.
D: For me, we were very formal-yet-playful at the start, but then as we started to get into tees and stuff like the noragi jacket, then we got more into smart-casual. Like for instance when we made the Noragi jacket, it was meant to be a really casual piece, like an overshirt, but when people starting buying it and telling us they were going to wear it to a wedding, or to formal occasions, it opened our mind to the styling possibilities, as we only thought of it as something to pair up with a t-shirt.
Why do you think your take on the Japanese noragi jacket has been such a hit?
TW: When I made the first Noragi sample three years ago, it was actually because I just wanted to wear one myself, then my partner saw it and liked the way it looked on me, so we decided to make a small batch to sell, and the response was good. I think it’s easy to wear and maybe locally the design is kind of new, but honestly I also don’t know why we get so many international orders, as there are so many choices out there online, maybe we our design is more simple.
D: In Malaysia, it is not common to wear jackets, but if you wear a button shirt at a formal event, you will kind of look a bit naked and out of place without an outer garment, and I think our Noragi is a very good layering piece. It is not that heavy or thick and is very good for the local climate. We also put a lot of effort into the cut to make it look good on most body types. We only do two sizes, 1 (Small-Medium) and 3 (Medium-Large), so it is whether you want a loose or slim fit. We have become well known for it, but we want people to know that we do offer more than just the Noragi.
What is the best seller this season?
TW: Our new pants. I think it is selling we because it is kind of hard to find a pair of casual pants that has a nice cut yet is a bit different from the norm. when I designed the pants this season, I added a discrete pocket on the right side outer pant leg, just big enough for a pack of cigarettes. The reason being is that I wanted somewhere to keep my cigarettes.
D: We get a lot of questions along the lines of “can I wear this to work?”. Usually, you would kind of know if something is good-to-go for casual or work, but when someone has to ask you that, it means that they think it is versatile enough to wear in an office environment, but they just need confirmation. So again, our pants do have that versatility.
What was the idea behind the “Portraits in Olive” capsule collection?
TW: I’ve always wanted to do a collection that revolves around the theme of one colour, so I decided on olive, because I like it, no other reason (laughs). It was the first time we did a blazer too by the way.
D: we don’t expect people to buy a whole olive coloured outfit, but we feel even as individual pieces the blazer, shorts, pants and shirts are easy to match with a other clothes.
Personally, what are your favourite Shuren items?
TW: I like this navy 3-quarter sleeve linen shirt with side pockets that I designed 3 years ago. We only made like 5-10 pieces and all my friends really liked it. Am planning to produce it again, it will be making a comeback soon.
D: Well we did a collection called the “7 Thesis of Stripes”, it was like 7 shirts all in stripes. I remember when Theng Wei came up with the designs and showed it to us, I actually wanted to own all of them. Another thing, the first oxford shirts we made, it means a lot to me, because we were just 22 at the time and starting our own brand. Just holding the finished factory pieces in the hand, knowing that we came up with them, it meant a lot.
What are some style tips you can give us?
TW: You have to find your own style and stick to it. Like choose your style, know what you like and what you want to wear. Know the story and purpose behind the style. Whatever it is, be confident with it and don’t keep changing whenever a new trend comes.
D: I feel that in order to dress better, you should eliminate pieces in your wardrobe that you don’t need. Just get rid of stuff you don’t wear and bought on impulse. When you understand more about your own wardrobe, you will inevitably dress better as you will know what you wear most often and for what occasions. Wardobe Hack! (Laughs).
Follow Shuren Projects on Instagram @shurenprojects and if you’re around PJ, drop by their store @sickreadingparty. They’re open 12pm – 7pm daily (closed on Mondays) and are located at 29, Jalan 20/13, Paramount Garden (a few doors down from Awesome Canteen).
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jules @ Streething