With ‘Private’ Underwear Company, Sophomore Wants You to Feel Good

Brenda Liang was just online shopping — now she has her own brand.

Elif Kesikbas, Staff Writer

It’s no secret that a good pair of underwear can be a confidence boost. It’s also no secret that finding cute, comfortable but affordable underwear is exhausting. LS sophomore Brenda Liang’s soon-to-launch brand Siren Basics aims to change that.

Liang’s brand has its roots in her interest in the Danish concept of hygge, which is a word for coziness and contentment. When she was a freshman living in Third Avenue North Residence Hall, she designed her dorm room as hyggelig as possible. The concept soon spilled over to her clothing, motivating Liang to shop online for new underwear pieces that would make her not only look good, but feel good.

“I had a very particular style in mind; high legs, ’70s bikini vibes, ’90s french-cut style, all-white and mesh,” Liang said. “But I just couldn’t find anything exactly how I wanted, and anything remotely similar was upwards of 30 or 50 bucks.”     

Shocked by the price of such a basic necessity, Liang quickly connected the dots. Her father Luke Liang is an entrepreneur, and from the age of 10, summer visits to his office had instilled the same drive in Brenda. She immediately called her father and pitched him the idea. He was all-in for his daughter’s idea, and he decided to invest in her business. 

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“I wasn’t exactly surprised since she’s always been entrepreneurial-minded,” Luke Liang wrote in an email to WSN. “Or maybe it’s the side-effects of watching The Profit or Shark Tank episodes on CNBC when she grew up. I support her because it’s a good first step to learn how to handle challenges and pursue her financial independence.”   

Through her father, Liang reached out to her second cousin Huangdang, who was working in textiles in Guangzhou, China. Liang requested a sample pair of underwear made from white mesh to better visualize her idea.

“She sent me a sample and I literally went straight off of the aesthetic of it,” Brenda Liang said. “I was like, ‘It’s cute, got the product, let’s sell it.’”

It turned out not to be that simple. When Liang threw the sample in the wash to test the fabric, the fibers of the mesh started coming off. She realized that she had to shift her attention to improving the quality of her product if she wanted to enter the competitive underwear market. She kept in touch with her cousin and asked her for more samples in different colors, which she would inspect in person on her family trip to Guangzhou in the summer.

Liang’s family visit soon turned into a business trip. At her cousin’s suggestion, she set up a meeting with two lingerie designers, whose studio neighbored her cousin’s office. Liang walked in with ideas, samples and eagerness to learn more. She explained her idea and showed them all of the samples. She was not expecting to walk out with a deal.

“They thought it was cute in a weird way,” Liang said. “Then they pull out these books of the appropriate materials to use, and they are like ‘You know what, we kind of see something in this idea of yours; we’re gonna partner.’ It was a huge step forward having someone, first of all, who knew what they are doing.”

Liang is now waiting for the final samples from Guangzhou to arrive in the U.S., before giving the green light to production. Meanwhile, she is putting all her effort into designing a logo that fully reflects the brand identity of Siren Basics. While siren in English refers to the mythological half-woman, half-bird creatures who lure sailors off course with their songs, in Mandarin it means private.

“I think that even though it literally does mean private, it’s not to say that Siren underwear should be a private thing,” Liang said. “If you want to share, share it. At the end of the day, I feel like sometimes underwear is made not for the woman herself, not for the individual. It’s to be sexy or to be cute, but it’s kind of the idea that whatever you want to be, however you want it to take some kind of effect on your life, just let it happen.”

Siren Basics is set to launch in 2020 with four colors available in cotton and mesh as thongs or full-coverage. The debut collection will be available to customers on the brand’s website and on Instagram. Liang also has collections  planned for the next year and a half.

Even though Siren Basics is Liang’s first attempt at growing a business, she is experienced in building her ideas from scratch. In high school, as a response to feeling out of place as an Asian student at an all-girls private Catholic school, Liang started a blog discussing beauty, fashion and her feelings. When she arrived at NYU, the connections she built here meant she no longer felt the need to continue the blog.

“Since I came to NYU, my life has changed,” Liang said. “I had never met so many people that made me happy and were supportive. I don’t really have anything to write about now.”

While Liang has a tight schedule between going to class and waitressing part-time at The Bowery Hotel Italian Gemma, she is committed to eventually growing her brainchild from an underwear brand to a basics brand featuring bodysuits, bras, bralettes and bikinis. Her dream is to have a pop-up store.

“When I started Siren, there definitely was a fear in the back of my head saying ‘I’m not gonna follow through with it, I’m not capable of this,’” Liang said. “Now we have designers and a business partner to work with. I’m not turning back anymore.”

A version of this article appears in the Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, print edition. Email Elif Kesikbas at [email protected]

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