Lionel Wong: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Lionel Wong, who launched streetwear label Bad Etiquette as an outlet to do something creative without any rules or boundaries. We caught up with him to find out where he sees himself in five years and what advice he would share with other young professionals…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I design ‘streetwear’ for like-minded people. I don’t follow the typical formula of big brand logos, and multiple colour ways of every product. I keep it simple, black and white only, and swagger over everything.

My collections are small; if I don’t love it, it doesn’t go out. That’s Bad Etiquette in a nutshell, a really small nutshell. 

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
It was (and actually still is) a passion project. It started as an outlet to do something creative without any rules or boundaries – I’m the client, the brand and the audience. I did it for myself, and just kept going cause people were into it. I’m super humbled by all the positive feedback that I’ve received in the last year. 

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
I get to create things without any rules or guidelines. Whether I’m designing a new tee, an event, or just a social post I can literally do or say whatever I want without being accountable to anyone. It’s authentic, and I think that’s what people like about Bad Etiquette.

The most challenging part about it – there aren’t enough hours in a day. 

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
Serious answer – I had a terrible battle with Cancer in my 20’s. And I’m convinced that it was caused by stress and pushing myself too hard. 

Not so serious answer – I think of every situation as a potential social post. #fomo

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I haven’t really thought about it. I go with the flow, day by day. Sure there’s some planning involved, but I don’t look that far into the future. I just keep hustlin and sorta fly by the seat of my pants. I go with my gut on a lot of stuff and it seems to be working. 

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Vendors. It’s really hard to find vendors that give a shit and can execute your vision the way you want. I was actually fired by 2 screen printers in a span of 6 months because my “expectations” were too high. But you have to keep your head up and keep rollin. After trying 6 embroidery vendors and 4 screen printers (in one year), I’ve finally found a couple that I’m happy to work with.

It’s hard not to get frustrated, but you have to draw on the positivity and support you get from fans of the brand. And of course, doing things like this make it all worth it. 

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success will be when I’m no longer the guy steaming samples and packing boxes anymore. That’s when I know I’ve made it. Lol.

My focus has really been about building the brand and keeping it authentic. I’m not expecting to make it, but if it happens that would be dope. So no, money hasn’t really been a factor thus far. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be nice to have more money so I can expand the line, get into cut & sew, and throw more events, but ‘gettin rich’ hasn’t really been on my mind. 

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Well, this is pretty dope. No seriously. Knowing that other people like what I’m doing is what keeps me going. There’s been so much unexpected love and support in the last year I don’t even know where to start. 

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Find a way to cope with stress. That shit will destroy you. It’s a constant hustle and grind, so you gotta stay positive, stay focused and learn to roll with the punches. Not everything’s gonna happen as you imagined, but keep on doin what you do. 

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
La Carnita, Playa Cabana and Luther’s Chicken. All run by entrepreneurs that share the same drive and hustle. In fact, we’re working on a collabo that drops this summer. Look out for it. 

And of course Churchill, that’s been the spot for all our Toronto based pop ups. And it’s a douche bag free zone. 

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
This is gonna sound cliche, but I’m kinda never not working. My mind is always working in the background on the next collection, the next collabo, the next social post, etc. It’s hard to shut down. But if I had to answer… I guess the answer would be taking naps. Followed closely by taking shots of Jameson with my crew.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Asia. For sure. I’m fascinated by all the cultures, all the street food, and I’m considered tall over there. 

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
That’s a really tough question. Not sure. But if I had to make a quick decision on the spot I’d say ‘Bad Boys For Life’ by P. Diddy.

I know, it’s ridiculous, but I guess that’s the mood I’m in today. I can’t say it’s right for Bad Etiquette, but right now as I’m writing this, it’s my personal theme song for the day. 

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I’d be designing something somewhere – whether it’s fashion, interior, graphic or industrial. Design is my passion and really the only thing I’m good at. Straight up.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I support the Canadian Cancer Society and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada. I’m actually a Cancer Survivor of 9 years, after doing the maximum dosages of chemo and radiation. I’ve been an advocate ever since. Aside from donations, I’ve also been on tv and in a couple ads for the Canadian Cancer Society.

It’s obviously a much longer story, but we can talk about that another time. 

What to you is notable?
I’m really surprised by the number of people who are willing to show love to an up and coming brand. People are writing, reviewing, buying and collaborating with an unknown. They’re taking a chance and putting their own reputations on the line. That to me is notable. #respect

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other? 
I was an iPhone guy for years, and everything else I own is Apple, but I’m a proud Android user these days. Gotta give it up to Google.


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