by Lindsay McMillan
The lights are flashing red and blue, and a remix of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” vibrates from floor to wall. A tall, muscular guy struts toward the rows of chairs, swiping his hand through blond locks as he slowly lifts up his t-shirt. The underwear band on his lower hip reads “SWAV,” featuring the Luxury Performance 1.0 pair of men’s underwear.
“We were a featured brand on the first night of OC Fashion Week,” said former business major at Chapman University Anthony Ferraro, “and it’s our job to continue building the brand’s image and reputation.”
Still working towards a degree, some Chapman students are starting small, and slowly but surely branching out into the business world. For two Chapman entrepreneurs, Anthony Ferraro of SWAV and Henry Kuckens of Modern Day Madness, building a business is centered on the progression of the brand and not just immediate success.
“The overall business goal is to stay privately owned and operated,” said Henry Kuckens, a junior graphic design major at Chapman University. “I want a Modern Day Madness retail store in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, and Toyko.”
The idea of Modern Day Madness stemmed from Kucken’s high school art class, where he would play around making designs and stencils. It wasn’t until he enrolled in college that he started spray-painting some of the stencils on top of his old t-shirts and working with Adobe programs in his graphic design courses.
“I knew I wanted it to become an actual brand,” said Kuckens, “but I was still being a teenager and doing other things.”
Once immersed in the college culture and relishing in graphic design’s creative freedom, Kuckens began scanning in his own drawings to easily manipulate image size and quality. He also began taking photos of his friends and their adventures with a 35mm point and shoot camera. Wanting his friends to keep up and view the images, Kuckens started a blog and named it “Modern Day Madness.”
“Since that, I let the photos sort of grow into the brand’s image,” says Kuckens.
In 2013, Kuckens discovered that by using social media, he could expand and promote the brand with products of his images. After solidifying an online shop, he decided to release a collection of shirts, hoodies, beanies, socks, accessories, and even an embroidered baseball jersey.
Both businesses have hopes of expanding not only their product line but also retail distribution. As of now, most of the businesses’ products are sold online through their websites. SWAV, in fact, is fulfilling a $51,000 Kickstarter order and 4,800 unit preorder from online customers and boutique retailers. Amazingly, SWAV only officially started in 2012 when Ferraro walked past a Victoria’s Secret store and thought about creating a Victoria’s Secret for men.
“SWAV was an idea in my head, but it wasn’t until I started taking risks that I saw results,” said Ferraro. “It’s much more than just a product – it’s also about customer service, lifestyle, and team workflow.”
The business began when Chapman University students Ferraro and senior business major Jeri Luhtanen came together to create a high-quality men’s underwear label. SWAV has now developed as a brand through various ways of exposure.
Taking SWAV from the “fan favorite” at Tech Coast Venture Network’s Survivor 7 fast-pitch competition to first place at Chapman University’s internal business plan competition, these students focused mainly on the production of the product.
“As we grew our advisor and mentor relationships, we learned the best way to develop our technical product was to source factories and suppliers domestically in America,” said Ferraro. “Ever since then we have been developing and designing our products in downtown Los Angeles.”
Ferraro, like Kuckens, used the Internet to his advantage. Through use of systems such as SEO, Google Adwords, and Facebook ads, the SWAV team has taken steps to expand the online network.
“We believe the Internet will continue to be a relevant resource for brands in the global market place,” said Ferraro, “The better you do on the Internet, the better and more sustainable your company will be in the long run.”
While developing a business as young entrepreneurs, these students have exemplified persecution to the ideas behind their products. In an effort to develop and not dwindle, SWAV and Modern Day Madness continue to ripen their ideas through production and distribution online, and work to one day sell their products in retail stores around the world.