Making Your Product Relatable

Needing a creative outlet while working for the government in 2012, college friends Ali Sangalang and Panch Alvarez decided to put their old classroom hobbies to good use. Ali had always been fond of creating Filipino-themed puns and collecting them to post as statuses. Panch was an illustrator and shared Ali’s sense of humor, adding design to the wordplay. What started as just a way to vent off steam and relax after a hard day of work became a regular pastime they shared with friends online – and went viral.

Linya-Linya Founders on How to  Make Your Product Relatable

As the artworks gained traction online, more and more people were starting to imagine them on shirts – and from that, Linya-Linya was conceptualized. While selling in bazaars about three years ago, they were approached by Yabang Pinoy and given funding to create their first few statement shirts. While that venture slowly gained them popularity, the business didn’t fully expand until Jim Bacarro joined the team in 2015, giving Ali and Panch a bigger vision for the brand.

Today, Linya-Linya has five branches and an online store. That’s a big feat to accomplish in only a few years, but the boys have definitely established and thrived in their spot in the industry – not to mention their market grows bigger day after day.

Linya-Linya started with t-shirts as its main product and is now also selling notebooks, keychains and bookmarks, among many more. Still, the t-shirts are what they’re most known for, despite the fact that according to Jim, “We had no experience in t-shirt making; we were never in fashion. [Even now, it’s] still a learning curve, a bit of a guessing game.”

Ali also shares that when they started, “Statement shirts weren’t as popular – graphic tees were [the ones] gaining traction at the time – so it was the perfect time to come in and bring [statement shirts] back.”

But what really makes these shirts click with the market are their designs. Ali, who writes all the lines for the products, says he finds inspiration in, “small observations of Filipino behaviour, Filipino culture, Filipino lingo […] actually, it’s not a unique experience, it’s a common experience. That’s why it’s very relatable, because it’s not a new experience. It’s just packaged in a creative way.”

Together, Ali and Panch have come up with over 500 designs, all of which are posted online and some of which have been turned into shirts. Their goal in making these puns are for the lines to be words to live by – akin to the salawikain we all learned back in our Buwan ng Wika schooldays.

While most of the lines don’t cater specifically to any generation, there are a few that come from contemporary pop culture. Ali shares, “We also try to define this generation through common experiences – ‘bes’, ‘squad goals’, hashtag culture – those are very now concepts, so in a way Linya-Linya is like a stamp, portraying this generation and this time.”

Panch adds, “Of course, we also have to adjust as time goes on. We have to be hip in any way. That’s the challenge moving forward.”

And despite the common belief, it’s not an easy challenge. Nowadays, for something to be entertaining it’s not enough for it to be funny, attractive or straightforward – the key characteristic is for a product to be relatable. Fortunately, Linya-Linya seems to have that covered, and the boys have no intention of stopping now that they have their niche.

On finding something that clicks and capitalizing on that, Jim shares, “It starts with something you have to believe in, because if you don’t believe in it, it’ll be a million times harder to push it to someone, or to convince someone to like it.”

Panch adds, “It’s hard enough to [make these lines and artworks] on a consistent basis. What more if you’re doing it every day? Sometimes you feel it becomes mechanical. So how are you going to move forward, how are you going to get over that slump, if you lack the core [idea] that you like this, you believe in what you’re doing?”

And finally, Ali closes with a shirt-worthy pun: “Ang business, parang pag-ibig. Kung hindi ka naniniwala talaga sa kanya, ‘wag mo na ituloy. Then kung hindi mo paghihirapan, wala ring mangyayari.”

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