Starting out as an early chronicle of sneaker culture, Hypebeast has distinctly evolved into an online magazine that lives up to the tongue-in-cheek origins of its name as a go-to influence guide. Since 2005, founder and editor-in-chief, Kevin Ma has been a sartorial force in covering streetwear. Reflecting Ma’s own growing interests, Hypebeast soon expanded into coverage of art and entertainment. Collaborating with such style giants as Adidas, Hypebeast soon gave rise to HBTV, an in-depth look at the talent behind the brands.
Operating from its headquarters in Hong Kong, Hypebeast is driven by a sense of good taste uniquely its own; a distinction that has earned it the honor of being one of Time’s ’50 Best Websites’ in 2008 and a digital street cred that has led to the recent launch of its on-line store.
Hypebeast began as a blog that chronicled sneaker culture. How did you come up with the name and how has Hypebeast evolved since its launch?
I didn’t actually come up with the term “Hypebeast” myself. “Hypebeast” is an existing term used to describe people who are obsessed about following a trend or wearing something only because the product was hyped up. I thought it would be interesting to use the word “hypebeast” for my blog to make fun of the sneaker culture at the time. I liked the irony of it.
I registered the domain “Hypebeast” in 2005 and since then it has evolved into something more than just sneakers. It’s fashion. It’s culture. It’s design. It’s art. It’s everything we are interested in.
See the rest of our interview with Ma after the jump.
What were your interests/influences growing up and what was your background prior to starting Hypebeast?
I have always loved computers and all things digital. I had my first computer when I was 13 and also got into the World Wide Web at a young age. At the time, I was also into basketball. I was never good at it but I guess you can see Hypebeast’s roots there.
Prior to Hypebeast.com, I worked in the financial sector but soon left to pursue Hypebeast as a full time job.
What key design elements do you look for when you’re curating content?
We don’t look for any specific key design elements. No rules. It’ really about what we (Hypebeast Editors) like at that moment. It may be bright colors. It may be prints. We never know. When we come across something we really like and are excited about it, we’ll want to write about it and share it with our readers.
Why do you think that streetwear and the culture surrounding it has become so popular over the years? What makes a brand successful?
Streetwear has always been popular because of the lifestyle it perceives as well as the price points. Students can easily afford a t-shirt from a street brand they like, whereas many designer labels are a bit more of an investment. Streetwear is getting more and more popular nowadays because of the accessibility of the Internet. It allows brands to communicate their message and lifestyle at a faster pace to a larger crowd and e-commerce lets people buy it whenever and wherever they are in the world.
A successful brand always represents a certain lifestyle. Some street brands represent the skateboarding lifestyle and some are closely knitted with the basketball lifestyle. People like a brand not only because they like a particular product but because they are interested in the image that the brand embodies.
What prompted you to relocate to Hong Kong and what are some current trends that you’re noticing there?
I grew up in Vancouver. It’s nice and beautiful but it can get a bit slow some times. I thought of coming to Hong Kong for a change since my family is from Hong Kong and I wanted to experience the difference of living in the Asian region.
People in Hong Kong are heavily influenced by a mix of European and Japanese trends.
Who is your audience and how do you distinguish yourself amongst other cultural sites?
Our audience is made up of people who follow the Hypebeast culture and share the same sort of taste and curiosity in fashion. We don’t try to be different from others or distinguish ourselves from other cultural sites. We only focus on doing what we like and share what we feel is interesting.
How did HBTV get its start and what sort of individuals are you interested in covering?
HBTV started as an extension of the Hypebeast editorial. Sometimes, we feel that text and pictures cannot fully express a topic, so we add in videos to make it more engaging for our audience.
We are interested in covering individuals who are different from the norm and are passionate about what they do. They can be fashion designers. They can be chefs. They can be anybody as long as they are different from the norm.
What are some highlights in Hypebeast’s history and what plans do you have in the works for the future?
The launch of our print magazine will be one of the biggest highlights of Hypebeast. We are very excited because it is completely different from what we have ever done before. We have always been digital and now for the first time, we are having a physical editorial.
In addition, we just launched our Hypebeast Store selling unique items hand picked by myself and our Editors. This is also a new direction for Hypebeast because many of our readers always ask where to buy items posted on our site. We hope this will help bridge that gap.
In the past, we have also done collaborations with brands such as Adidas, and Dr. Martens. Being a fan of these brands, I never thought I would have the opportunity to do such collaborations with them. It’s definitely a huge highlight in Hypebeast’s history.
As for the future-we’ll keep you posted!
The core values of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Altitude Edition are edge, power and innovation. Which of these values do you personally identify with in your life and why?
All of them play an important part in my life. Living on the edge is like running Hypebeast. I invest everything, my life, my time and my money to run the Hypebeast business each day hoping we don’t fall off. To do this requires strength and rigor, as I have to customize my lifestyle to run the business. Staying up later than everyone else, working harder than everyone else. Hypebeast is now inseparable from my life. We also have to constantly adapt to new innovations and make use of the new innovations that are out there fueling Hypebeast.