Over a decade ago, Mike Liwanag — the founder of the Savs clothing brand — began his career in streetwear by selling Manny Pacquiao shirts “out the trunk” without any permission or permits.
At the time, social media wasn’t much of an option. So instead of selling direct-to-customer online, he had to hustle outside of popular venues where Pacquiao’s fights were being broadcasted. The young Filipino American clothing maker blew up in 2008 after selling over 20,000 shirts in four fights. The hype even reached Pacquiao himself.
“I was working 80 to 90 hours a week with a full-time job, just selling in the streets, and [Pacquiao] found out and invited me to meet him,” Liwanag says. “I was nervous at first, but we chopped it up and he gave us his blessing. He’s a real one. He could’ve sued us. Instead I was able to stack my bread and quit my job.”
In 2012 he founded Savs, one of the region’s premier clothing brands that specializes in custom sports apparel, basketball shorts and Filipino American drip. You may have seen their retro baseball jerseys — with “Lumpia” scripted across the chest — at an A’s or Giants game.
Liwanag has since become a godfather of Bay Area streetwear. A veteran in the game, he’s helped launch other viral Filipino-owned brands — namely, Who Cares? and Collect and Select — and continues finding ways to give back to his community.