The Original Hypebeast
office had the chance to sit down with Ma at the event to talk about his plans for Hypebeast and the future of Hypefest.
Read our interview below, and peep the rest of our photos from Hypefest here.
With one day of Hypefest down, what’s been your favorite part so far?
Just seeing everybody gather from across the world. Literally, people from Asia, people from Europe, I even met some people from Mexico and South America and was like, ‘Oh, you took a plane just to come here?!’ That’s pretty amazing. All of these people gathered here because they love creativity, the brands we’re presenting, the artists, the musicians. It’s a good way for people to connect. We want to make it a platform for kids to meet their favorite designers and artists, where they have a more intimate environment to connect. And hopefully, with this kind of platform, these kids will be inspired to become a fashion designer, or get into a creative field, or become a photographer or the next great ‘whoever.’
I know you’ve said that you wanted Hypefest to be more of an immersive experience and place to learn, rather than just shopping booths. Can you tell me a few ways you’ve done that?
It was more like, ‘Hey, let’s bring all these people together in one place,’ and then organically things happen. You meet up with friends here, reconnect or meet new people, friends refer other friends. These interactions are hard to come by these days, you know, face-to-face ones. I mean, you could go on social media and kind of interact, but that’s very surface-level. To make deeper, more meaningful connections, it’s nice to sit down and have a chat.
I think there’s a certain connotation with hype being flashy, clearly notable trends and logos, but it seems like your personal style is more about quality meeting trends.
When I first started I was a typical hypebeast—I was buying into the hype, honestly. These are limited edition shoes, yes, they look sick and are colorful, but this event is a gateway to this massive world behind it. Here, I think there are ‘hyped’ products, but behind it there’s design or a collaboration with an artist, and suddenly you’re learning about that artist. I think if you use products as a medium of communication, it can be a really great educational tool.
What are you wearing today?
A pair of adidas [white Yung-1’s] and an Undercover x Sacai shirt.
How did you go about curating the event?
Well I had two committee members, Sarah Andelman and Hiroshi Fujiwarai. I respect them a lot. They call Hiroshi the “Godfather of Streetwear.” Without him, I think a lot of us would not exist—a lot of these brands would not exist—so he was the first person I thought of. Then we went to Paris and hit up Sarah, because we wanted a more diverse curation and she’s amazing, and brings a lot to the table. We brought together our different inspirations and took it from there.
Now with the site, a magazine and online retail, how much are you still involved with the curation of Hypebeast?
I check the site everyday. We have a great team who helps curate it, otherwise it’d be impossible to do everything. I definitely rely on creative people to help run everything. But I am still so involved because I started out as a blogger, that was my passion—to find cool stuff and put it on the site. So, I’m definitely still very into it.
I remember in 2005, when Hypebeast first started, as a young sneaker head, there were limited options—we all basically just liked Nike Dunks, Nike SBs and Jordans. Then it seemed like everything grew really quickly. When did you start bringing in a team to help?
Yeah, SB’s, that’s what got me into it! Now, there’s a bigger audience, more people involved. Before, it was very niche, only a small group of people liked this stuff, but with the websites that made it bigger and then social media, boom—even bigger.
I used to work a full time job and my side gig was Hypebeast. It wasn’t even a gig, it was my hobby. But then I would go to work 9-5, come home, update my blog, and after about six months, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m generating income,’ because we had some ads on the site. I was like, ‘This is pretty cool, now I can quit my job, why not?’ I took the plunge and did Hypebeast full time. The income started rolling in even more. I was like, ‘Okay, I need some freelance people to help update,’ and one thing lead to another.It was all very dependent on our budget—we didn’t raise any funding.
Coming from a magazine, I know that it’s always hard to find a balance between working with advertisers and maintaining creative control. You need to be able to sell ads to keep the magazine going without selling out and losing your identity. How much of Hypebeast is curated by what you like, by trends, or by who wants to pay as an advertiser? How do you maintain the balance?
We have to maintain balance, it’s our responsibility. I think every magazine is different, so there’s no right or wrong way to do this. Some magazines are very ad-driven. That’s cool, they make a lot of money. Some magazines don’t sell ads, and it’s a tougher environment to operate in, but maybe they have other models, like making money from selling the magazine, or they’re actually a creative agency. I think it all depends on the publisher. For us, we try to find a find balance between everything. We have a big team and they have families, they have to keep the lights on. We also just really encourage the advertisers and say, ‘Hey, we want to make something cool together that’s meaningful for your products or campaigns. How can we work together to make something interesting?’ It’s gotta be something the readers are interested in, as opposed to just stuffing things down people’s throats. If you do that long enough they’ll just reject your brand totally. So, for me this started as a passion and I don’t want it to turn into some commercial entity. It’s just constantly finding a balance.
What’s the next move for Hypefest? Another city?
We want this to be a platform for visitors and readers from all over to visit in real life, so it’s a possibility. Hopefully we just get through this first one, though.
View the rest of our photos from Hypefest here.