APP CULTURE

Are you HYPEBEAST enough?

Enter the trendy world of developer Kevin Ma.

What does it say about you if you’ve already downloaded HYPEBEAST? That you are into style, design, high fashion or techno-gadgets? The answer is, all of the above.

HYPEBEAST, a fashion and trend platform that first existed as a blog in 2005, has grown from a website about kicks, into a full-bodied media that went public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2016. In addition to its official website HYPEBEAST, the company has further expanded into other formats, including an app and a physical magazine. This ‘underground fashion king’ commands such influence that it was featured in Forbes and BoF.

We chatted with founder Kevin Ma about his experience of building the company, his view on the fashion industry, and most importantly, why is HYPEBEAST so trendy?

Birth of HYPEBEAST

The term ‘hypebeast’ used to mean people who love fashion and chase trends. When HYPEBEAST broke onto the scene, the term took on broader meaning.

[Hypebeast] describe[s] all cultural enthusiasts. From a sneaker-head, a photographer to someone who simply appreciates and manifests a cultural phenomenon, they can all be considered a hypebeast.

—HYPEBEAST founder Kevin Ma

HYPEBEAST was established because of Kevin’s love for trending culture. Like many, he found a nine-to-five job that required a suit and tie upon graduation, joining the daily grind. To express his love for sneakers and street photography, he opened a blog in 2005 to write about his favourite kicks. “HYPEBEAST was only a side project. However, I started to realise that I was earning a decent amount of money through the website. In addition, online mentions by musicians helped to increase the audience size even further while word-of-mouth feedback from readers validated our work. It eventually became bigger.”

He decided to quit his day job and focus on HYPEBEAST full time, including expanding beyond sneakers to include everything he found to be ‘cool’, such as high fashion, street trends and cultural phenomena. Looking back, he reminisces, “I guess it was a gutsy move at the time, not knowing how long HYPEBEAST was going to be around. The motivation was simply my passion and eagerness to share what I love, and this transcended all uncertainties and doubts for the future.”

Bold Trials

Launching HYPEBEAST, you’ll see coverage of a variety of topics, including Fashion, Footwear, Tech, Travel and Entertainment etc. Tapping on ‘More’ allows you to find your saved articles, or choose your preferred topics to personalise your feed. In addition, since HYPEBEAST started out focusing on trendy sneakers, it knows what its readers want – every article covering an individual product will have a purchase link. If the product isn’t on the market yet, then editors will update the article with the launch date and sale location, to keep readers from missing out on their favourite items.

Kevin continued to explore possibilities for HYPEBEAST. In 2012, he launched the e-commerce platform HBX. Kevin says, “We wanted to open a physical store all along, but the cost was beyond what we could afford. Therefore, we shifted back to where our greatest strength lies – our online platform. With just one click, HYPEBEAST readers could buy from HBX the products they read about on a daily basis.”

HBX started with 20 brands, and has grown to include over 200 luxury, contemporary and street brands. In 2017, Kevin branched into offline stores, setting up several pop-up stores and eventually opening his first brick-and-mortar store in Hong Kong to spark further growth.

Not only that, Kevin published the HYPEBEAST Magazine since 2012, going against the trend of a steady decline for print media formats. Why? He says, “We started planning for a print magazine once our platform reached a certain level of maturity. I’ve always liked the physical experience of holding a magazine or a book – to be able to touch and feel the medium of the content you are reading, and to connect with the way literature had been consumed by people before the Internet. Once our resources were sufficient, we issued our first magazine.”

Possibilities in the digital world

However, Kevin still believes that digital offers more possibilities. Print and online content need to complement each other; the former offers a concrete platform for people to continue exploring different artistic expressions and a friendly and meaningful reading experience, while the latter does not mean the death of print, but rather another alternative.

Similarly, street fashion once stood at arm's length from the fashion industry, but that trend has been changing on a massive scale over the past years. In 2018, Vogue collaborated with a renowned sportswear brand to launch a collection of sneakers. The magazine's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour wore a pair of sneakers from the collection in front of the camera, sparking a storm of comments from the fashion media. Has the time come for high fashion to embrace street trends?

Kevin believes that “the fine line between luxury and streetwear fashion has been merging and blurring for a considerable amount of time. The digital landscape has made it easier for them to blend together.” He expects this digital evolution to result in new creative synergies that were not possible before.

Why is HYPEBEAST so cool?

There’s a simple answer to this: staying true. From running a sneaker blog to heading up today’s fully fledged media platform, Kevin has always maintained an open attitude:

Our content has always been driven by what’s cool, so our team will continue to keep an eye out for the latest trends in fashion, lifestyle and culture, and explore all things creative, regardless of what particular category mainstream defines them as.

—Kevin Ma

Kevin has always maintained his core value throughout his many experiments and never lost focus. HYPEBEAST continues to evolve with the ever-changing trends of the world. His goal has always been to create content around youth culture that spurs thinking, to create a platform that connects, inspires and motivates.

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