Hypebeast makes a 7-story bet on its future

As influencers saturate the sneakerhead community with unboxing videos and guides on where to find the latest trends with little more than a ring light, Hypebeast, one of the first online platforms to arrive as a source of streetwear culture, doubles the pace. of seven floors.

Founded by Kevin Ma nearly two decades ago, the company is set to open a new headquarters in Manhattan’s Chinatown on Friday, with plans to become a Nasdaq-listed company by the end of the year. .

As well as flexing its muscles ahead of the planned IPO, the sensational investment – ​​the building includes a retail store, coffee counter, and event and office spaces – also suggests the eagerness of a brand that has started life as a blog to cement its position amid the rise of influencer culture and social media platforms teeming with similar content.

Mr Ma, 39, said he never thought of Hypebeast as a “one-stop” authority in streetwear, but as part of an ecosystem where everyone can share their voice and “help each other”. . Still, he insists that Hypebeast continues to deliver something different from its competition.

“We’ve been very careful in our curation,” he said. “There is a certain angle and a certain taste. So I hope people see us – as the things we talk about or love – I hope people pay a little more attention to this because we’ve been doing this for so many years.”

Hypebeast started in 2005 as a rambling student blog. Mr. Ma, a self-proclaimed sneakerhead, spent much of his time scouring print magazines, online message boards, and forums for information on cool limited-edition sneakers.

“The information wasn’t that accessible back then, but I was just digging into it all, I didn’t care, then I was going to different sneaker shops and queuing as usual” , did he declare. “And one day I just decided, Hey, why not start a journal and write about all the cool stuff I find.”

This online journal started with sneakers but eventually grew to cover streetwear, contemporary art, luxury fashion and music, becoming a resource for others like him looking for the latest trends.

He first chose the name Hypebeast – a generally negative term used to describe someone who is only interested in “hype” or trends – because he thought it would be funny, but now he is. become synonymous with a broader niche culture, which has benefited his brand, he says.

In 2008, Hypebeast was named one of 50 best websites by Time magazine. It launched an e-commerce platform, HBX, in 2012; Hypebae, her online destination for women’s lifestyle and culture, in 2016; and has a long list of other businesses. He also launched Hypekids in 2017 and Hypefest, a two-day streetwear and cultural festival in Brooklyn, in 2018. (Both are currently on hold.)

As Hypebeast’s “biggest company to date,” Ma said, the new 25,000-square-foot headquarters in the heart of Chinatown will house an HBX flagship store, the company’s curated store. online retail storeand a company-run cafe known as hypebeans.

The building’s aesthetic is raw and minimalist, with mostly gray walls, high ceilings, exposed brickwork, and much of the building’s original infrastructure still in place.

Retail spaces on the first and second floors will sell pieces from brands including Nike, Raf Simons, Thom Browne, Maison Mihara, Acne Studios and Reese Cooper. In the center of the first floor is a bright display of sneakers and apparel framing an interior courtyard beneath a bespoke light box.

An innovation space on the third floor will host artists, musicians, brands and fashion designers to show off their latest creations through collaborative events and pop-ups.

The remaining four floors will be the new offices for more than 100 employees who work for Hypebeast and its other brands in New York. Production of the building had started in 2019 but the pandemic caused some delays.

Because Hypebeast is a “brand that thrives on cultural cachet,” according to Andrew Lipsman, e-commerce and retail analyst at Insider Intelligence, this development should help elevate the company by providing a physical centerpiece.

“It is reasonable for the flagship product to function solely as a marketing asset to generate brand equity that fuels its e-commerce business. Offline engagement can drive online sales, and vice versa,” Lipsman wrote in an email. “That said, I think the location can be very profitable on a stand-alone basis, largely because the brand thrives on the scarcity economy with apparel and footwear drops.”

The company, which has already been listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since 2016, is currently pursue a public listing on the Nasdaq under the symbol $HYPE, after a merger with Iron Spark, an investment company.

While the opening of the new headquarters will represent an ambitious physical manifestation of its dense portfolio, it won’t be the first time the company has gone the brick-and-mortar route. In 2016, the first HBX store opened in Hong Kong and a Hypebeans opened there in 2020.

To design the New York headquarters, Mr. Ma enlisted the help of FOOD New York, a self-proclaimed environmental design studio that was founded by architect Dong-Ping Wong and is also located in Chinatown. . “They’ve worked on interiors for Off-White and Yeezy, so they’re really great people,” Mr. Ma said.

He added that he and his team sought out Chinatown as a neighborhood for Hypebeast America’s new headquarters because of its local art scene, proximity to SoHo and, in the spirit of the brand, it’s unpredictable.

“I think there’s a lot of energy in Chinatown, you know, a lot of creatives, designers, photographers,” he said. “But it’s also quite unexpected.”

Now more than ever, consumers are spending much of their shopping online, so the idea of ​​setting up a physical store at this time might puzzle some, but Lipsman said that shouldn’t even be the slightest concern.

“80% of retail is still done in stores, and even young people go to stores when they have a reason to. D2C brands are turning to brick and mortar every day and they’re doing it successfully,” Lipsman said, referring to direct-to-consumer brands that started selling exclusively online but eventually transitioned to online. brick and mortar.

Mr. Ma agrees, adding that he is not worried that online shopping will affect the success of the new retail space.

“We started online: our retail core is an e-commerce platform, so for us it’s really like an extension of our brand,” he said. “It’s like this online cultural hub integrated into an offline hub.”

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