TWON Talks About Their Transition From Printing Tees to Strada Custom Bikes
12oz had the opportunity to kick it at Strada headquarters this week and speak with Cory Ng, one of the partners at the up and coming bike company. Nestled in the heart of Chinatown, NYC, their open-space office was reminiscent of the layout you’d expect at FCNY. Hardwood floors covered the back of their warehouse with a regulation-sized hoop mounted on the wall. In place of overpriced kicks were stacks of bike parts, stickers, and accessories neatly piled and sorted. Strada, which has already been featured on XXL, Karmaloop TV, and Teen Vogue, is a relatively young company headed by Cory and Tommy Leong, both in their mid-20’s. But their collective team, more notoriously known as TWON, has been around since the late 90’s. From their beginnings as a graf crew to having their own clothing line and then entering the bike market, this is their story.
The TWON crew (derived from “2 Nice”) all met through a mutual interest in graffiti. As teenagers hanging out at Chinatown’s Columbus Park, the core group grew from 8 writers to an extended family of over 20. Cory, still in junior high, was 12 at the time. “TWON” tags starting popping up around the neighborhood. Soon after, they printed boxes of stickers to bomb city streets and local hangouts. Cory recalls Shepard Fairey being an early influence to get their sticker game up; “Those Obey vinyl stickers were what made bombing cool in NYC.”
Cory says that the transition into streetwear was organic. His father, who used to work with Supreme’s founder James Jebbia, had his own store printing tees. With an octopus screen-printing press and dryer still in the basement, Cory and the crew made one “TWON” screen and started experimenting with different color-ways. They had bought a handful of $1 tees and through plenty of trials and mess-ups, started perfecting their first tee. “We were excited to have our own “brand”. We made them just for our friends with no intentions to sell, only charging a small amount so we could make more.”
That sentiment changed quickly as people started asking to cop their shirts. They had gained a following from the street kids in Chinatown, and Cory and Wing went for broke. They pooled all their money together and created a set of designs to shop to stores. The big players in NYC’s streetwear scene all placed orders, including Reed Space, Memes, and Union (now Stussy).
TWON banged out season after season for a few years. But things had gotten corporate, and the fun of making a tee to rep your crew was lost. The streetwear industry had also dried up and internal conflict compelled some of the team to pursue other ventures. “It was more glamorous on the outside,” Cory says. During this time, many of them were biking even before the bike craze hit New York. They’ve always been adept at building and customizing their bikes from scratch, and Cory saw an opportunity.
Strada Customs was born, capitalizing on the build-your-own market. Boasting their own frame (inspired from the classic track frame) with a patented dropout, you can customize each part of the bike with a host of colors. Fixed gear or single speed, they’ve got you covered. “Whether you’re tagging a wall, doing a tee, or building a bike, the design element is always prevalent. It was an easy transition from graff, which isn’t as prominent as it used to be. The illegality of it has opened up new lanes. Look at Kaws doin’ Hennessey and Andre with Belvedere.” For Cory, Tommy, and crew, changing lanes meant designing bikes. Be on the lookout for future collabs between Strada and other artists soon. While you’re waiting, cop a Strada Custom here.
Text & Photo by: Steven Lau