Entrepreneur

"I Looked Stupid Sometimes, Even Crazy." Dato' Lewré On Innovation, Funding And The Future.

Lewré as a brand probably needs very little introduction. Founded by Dato’ Lewré Lew in 1997, in the past 20 years, they’ve made their way all over the world, and even onto the feet of royalty.

Dato’ Lewré shared in a previous interview, “I was very fortunate to have made my debut at London Fashion Week in 1998. Since then, the brand has been to every major fashion show you can think of.”

In 2015, they diversified into F&B and opened up the first Nicsmann by Lewré in TREC KL, offering what they call “restaurantainment”. The second outlet was opened last year in Starling Mall.

In more recent news, the Lewré brand decided to go into equity crowdfunding (ECF), and has already surpassed the minimum target of RM1,000,000, with 27 days left to go.

We had a chance to have a sit-down interview with the Dato’, who remains the creative mind and visionary force driving the brand. He answered some of the questions that we had about Lewré, the funding and their foray into the tech scene, as a “traditional” business.

1. Why choose ECF in the first place?

Equity crowdfunding to raise funds for a company’s expansion has seen a rise of popularity in the recent years. But we had to ask why did a well-established company like Lewré decide to take this path?

According to Dato’ Lewré, it boils down to one simple thing.

“We want to let more people reach out to this journey of ours.”

He wanted to allow his friends to jump on board to own shares in his company.

“The larger funds will come in later on. By that time, the value will be much higher, and it’ll be much harder for friends to come in.”

He explained that it was a win-win situation. As a retailer, he would like for his customers to become his investors, whether big or small.

“For example, if you have a share in this, would you come and consume? Naturally. So this is the value chain effect to both.”

Image Credit: Ata Plus

2. When did Lewré’s evolution into a tech company begin?

According to the Dato’ he started toying with the idea 10 years ago.

“I face so many problems the conventional way. Imagine, you make a left and right shoe, and they aren’t the same and they’re specially made… how can you earn money? It will be very costly. And manufacturers will be reluctant to do it.”

So over 5 years ago, he started a programme to develop the technology that he needed to transform Lewré.

This programme resulted in a special shoe-maker machine (now with tech that’s patented worldwide).

“The machine is able to measure your pressure points, balance and alignment, so that we will be able to make a shoe mould for you. From the machine, I can get the perfect shoe done.”

Part of the “I Love U” collection, dedicated to the memory of the late Princess Diana / Image Credit: Lewré Bespoke

In the past two years, Lewré has also been transforming from a mixture of ready-to-wear and bespoke, to now placing more emphasis on bespoke.

“We see bespoke is the trend. In the very near future, everything will be bespoke, meaning made to order according to your needs.”

3. What do we have to look forward to in 2018 for Lewré?

The machine mentioned earlier will play a major role in Lewré’s plans this year. Phase 1 was developing the machine and running the prototypes. Next is commercialisation.

As part of the model, the bespoke shoes made will also come with a special insole that is able to detect the wearer’s walking style and habits, feeding that information back to the company, that will allow them to redesign or refit the shoe to even better match the user.

Over the next 18 months, the plan is to roll out the machine across Lewré stores worldwide, along with an accompanying app. With factories in strategic locations worldwide, the goals is to get bespoke shoes delivered to customer doorsteps 24 hours after measuring.

Through their technology, Dato’ Lewre sees his shoes become smart shoes, able to measure key health stats like weight, blood pressure, heart rate and sugar level, in real-time.

“If your blood pressure is a little high, then you can ask the app what to do, and it will be able to tell you what are the recommended steps to take,” he explained.

The third and final phase of his project is A.I. technology. Dato’ Lewré envisions his shops staffed by robots, who, with access to customer data, are able to greet them by name, remember their tastes and up their level of service and efficiency.

“My shop will have nobody staffing it, except maybe one person to open the door.”

On the Nicsmann by Lewré side, he’s planning on opening more outlets, with Genting being the first port of call.

After that?

“We will be in China very soon, and Lewré will follow 18 months later,” he told us excitedly.

4. What are the key traits of entrepreneurship that has brought Lewré to where it is now?

Image Credit: Ata Plus

“It’s because I’m very new. I always say, not how old are you or how young are you, but how new are you, in terms of your thoughts and mindset. Of course you have a good dream and interesting things you want to do, but are you able to walk the talk and deliver what your dream?”

Dato’ Lewré firmly believes that it’s his background that really empowered him and drove him to succeed. Coming from a family of 15 brothers and sisters, he remembers having to wake up early every day, and running home in the pre-dawn light to get to school.

“Every morning, the sun will brighten up the sky. That luminous light, that ray gave me so much hope. And I saw the future. I’m not a hero; I just wanted to help my family.

“This journey taught me how hard life can be, but I just enjoyed it. I had to face it, and enjoy it. That life gave me resilience and perseverance, to overcome. I looked stupid sometimes, even crazy.”

In fact, in the early days of his business, his own partner had doubts.

“When I said, I want to export, I don’t want to rely only on the Malaysian market, my partner will look at me and say ‘Are you sure you can?'”

His key lesson from that was, sometimes even partners will not believe in you.

“So I have to really believe in myself. I have to really be bold to think that I can and put it into action. If you think you can, you can.”

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When wrapping up, he left us with some advice for potential entrepreneurs.

“Persevere and believe yourself. Next, love yourself.”

“Loving yourself is also discipline, and a healthy lifestyle. Because, for example, I’m the breadwinner. I’m also a corporate figure in society. If you are not healthy, who will suffer? You loved ones, your family, your company, your enterprise.”

Finally, he told us of his hopes that his brand and experiences can become an inspiration for Malaysians.

“Lewré’s not about me anymore. Especially for Malaysians I want to build one global renowned international brand worldwide.”

“I want all this to happen within the next 5 to 10 years. A truly international brand that is on par or even better than international brands… because ours is bespoke. All custom made. All within a short time, because of the tech involved.”

“If we don’t do it, who will do it? China will take over your rice bowl! Or America or someone else from somewhere else in the world. So what do Malaysians need to do? So I hope this will inspire more people to think differently and transform according to the trend. If I can set the trend anyone can.”

  • Founded in 1997 by Dato’ Lewré Lew, Lewré is fresh off a successful and still ongoing equity crowdfunding campaign with Ata Plus.
  • Lewré’s shift into a tech company began with Dato’ Lewré’s anticipation of the current trends and is part of their efforts to remain fresh and relevant.
  • Their prototype machine—that will enable their company to custom make smart shoes for customers—will be rolled out in stores in the next 18 months.
  • It took a huge amount of grit and perseverance to build a successful Malaysian brand, and Dato’ Lewré hopes that he can be an inspiration to other young Malaysian entrepreneurs.  

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