Rat­ing Hype­fest

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page - BY ARIA HUGHES

The streetwear fes­ti­val or­ga­nized in Brook­lyn by Hype­beast seemed to be the anti-Com­plexCon.

NEW YORK — Given its name and the au­di­ence it tar­gets, Hype­fest, the first shop­ping event and fes­ti­val put on by Hype­beast, was un­ex­pect­edly somber.

The two-day event, which took place this past week­end in the Brook­lyn

Navy Yard, was spread be­tween two build­ings, which were filled with about 50 brand booths. The mar­ket­place was com­ple­mented by talks, food and live per­for­mances from a stage out­side.

It’s a for­mula that’s been proven suc­cess­ful for Com­plex’s Com­plexCon, which started in 2016 and gen­er­ated $20 mil­lion to $25 mil­lion in sales last year, and other shop­ping events in­clud­ing Yo’Hood in Shang­hai, which was founded in 2013, and Sole DXB in Dubai, which started in 2010.

In its first it­er­a­tion, Hype­fest was a smaller ver­sion of those fes­ti­vals — last year’s Com­plexCon drew 50,000 visi­tors while Hype­fest brought in around

10,000 — and was de­void of the run­ning, on­site re­selling and frenzy turned into safety haz­ards that spurred crit­i­cism of Com­plexCon. In an In­sta­gram cap­tion that’s now deleted, Bobby Hun­dreds, founder of The Hun­dreds, was up­set by the in­sa­tiable de­sire for prod­uct at Com­plexCon, and grown men top­pling over younger ones to get it. “You could smell the oils of com­merce in the air,” he wrote.

Kevin Ma, the founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Hype­beast, at­tended Com­plexCon and wanted to take a dif­fer­ent ap­proach with Hype­fest. He made show tick­ets free, and worked with Frenzy, a sneaker and streetwear app owned by Shopify, on the Hype­fest app to elim­i­nate long lines, crowds and chaos. While some booths did al­low cus­tomers to walk away with prod­uct, most of the shop­ping had to take place in the ge­ofenced Hype­fest app and brands were re­spon­si­ble for ship­ping the items to cus­tomers. Chris Gibbs, owner of Union, had at­tempted to thwart lines out­side of his booth last year at Com­plexCon by utiliz­ing the Frenzy app, but be­cause cus­tomers were able to pick up the prod­uct from the booth, the strat­egy was un­suc­cess­ful.

“Our de­sign­ers and our artists put a lot of ef­fort into their booth and if peo­ple are stuck in line, then no one can ex­pe­ri­ence the in­stal­la­tions,” said Ma. “Shop­ping is a part of the ex­pe­ri­ence, but we also want peo­ple to con­nect.”

At­ten­dees were split on the app ex­pe­ri­ence. Calvin Lee, who flew in from Cal­i­for­nia to at­tend the event, liked it. Hav­ing been to Com­plexCon, he ap­pre­ci­ated not hav­ing to wait in line or carry around prod­ucts he bought. Richard Cox liked it in the­ory, but once he got to Hype­fest, he changed his mind.

“If I want to shop on­line, I will shop on­line. But if I’m here, I want to have the prod­uct in my hand,” said Cox. “I know it’s a safety hazard, but maybe they need to fig­ure out a way to dis­trib­ute prod­uct at the end of the fes­ti­val.”

An­other fes­ti­val­goer, who re­quested anonymity, wasn’t pleased with the ex­pe­ri­ence. The teenager, who has also at­tended Com­plexCon, was at­tempt­ing to pur­chase the Off-White x Ri­mowa lug­gage to re­sell and ran into is­sues with WiFi con­nec­tiv­ity, the prod­uct sell­ing out be­fore he could con­nect, and not be­ing able to make mul­ti­ple pur­chases from mul­ti­ple ven­dors at the same time, which caused his bank to is­sue a fraud alert.

“There weren’t enough drops to choose from,” said the de­jected-sound­ing teen. “It can’t be Hype­fest with no hype.”

How cus­tomers want to shop is a loom­ing ques­tion for re­tail­ers, and the streetwear in­dus­try has con­jured up ex­cite­ment and sales around drops and a re­lease sched­ule that other brands are try­ing to em­u­late.

But as the streetwear au­di­ence broad­ens, brands are tasked with pleas­ing a younger cus­tomer who feeds off the frenzy and an older cus­tomer who avoids it.

That push and pull was at play at

Hype­fest, with a brand mix that ranged from Ray-Ban, Diesel and G-Star to Bil­lion­aire

Boys Club, Nee­dles and Sa­cai. Sarah An­del­man, founder of Co­lette, who was on the Hype­fest fes­ti­val com­mit­tee — she held a sim­i­lar po­si­tion at last year’s Com­plexCon — was partly re­spon­si­ble for the brand cu­ra­tion, which she said was sim­i­lar to Com­plexCon but more el­e­vated. In her view, this is how peo­ple want to shop now and she has no as­pi­ra­tion to re­visit per­ma­nent re­tail.

“There’s no sep­a­ra­tion be­tween street and fash­ion any­more,” said An­del­man, who was hav­ing trou­ble pur­chas­ing an Ex­pert Hor­ror T-shirt from the Hype­fest app as she fielded ques­tions. “I think it’s clever that peo­ple don’t have to carry prod­uct.”

Higher-end brands were in­te­grated in a way that mostly made sense. Ri­mowa de­buted its col­lec­tion with Vir­gil Abloh; Sa­cai pre­sented a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Par­adise Garage, and the New Guards Group was out in full ef­fect with booths from Marcelo Bur­lon, Heron Pre­ston and Palm An­gels, which is col­lab­o­rat­ing with Mon­cler. MCM set up a branded yacht out­side and Marc Ja­cobs, who at­tended the fes­ti­val, let shop­pers cus­tom­ize mouth masks.

Cus­tom or spe­cial prod­uct was a pre­vail­ing theme at the fes­ti­val. Nee­dles drew a lot of at­ten­tion with its T-shirts and flan­nels made from strips of fab­ric — at the booth de­sign­ers demon­strated how they were made. More com­mer­cial brands such as Diesel and La­coste also let shop­pers cus­tom­ize prod­uct. La­coste part­nered with Chi­na­town Mar­ket on a pop­u­lar ac­ti­va­tion that let shop­pers per­son­al­ize La­coste polo shirts with an EBS Hand­jet Por­ta­ble Printer or have it air­brushed by an artist.

“We were re­ally look­ing for a way to hack the brand,” said Mike Cher­man, founder of Chi­na­town Mar­ket. “I think right now you are see­ing a lot of new brands pop up, but there needs to be some sub­stance. We can all make good prod­uct, but it’s also about cre­at­ing com­mu­nity and con­nect­ing with peo­ple.”

Ma said that was an­other aim for

Hype­fest and fit­tingly, while be­ing asked ques­tions, a young boy ap­proached him, of­fered him a sticker, and asked him about work­ing for Hype­beast.

“How else can you meet these de­sign­ers that you ad­mire,” said Ma. “I mean, you can find their cell­phone and send a text, but who knows if they will re­spond.”

Adi­das, which will also be par­tic­i­pat­ing in Com­plexCon this year, used Hype­fest as a plat­form to pre­view its Never Made cam­paign, which will de­but on Tues­day. The brand didn’t make any prod­uct ex­clu­sive to the fes­ti­val, but let at­ten­dees pur­chase, via an Adi­das app, one of the eight new styles that merge old and new up­pers and soles. The booth, which was the largest brand ac­ti­va­tion at Hype­fest, in­cluded a Mak­ers Lab where cus­tomers could work with de­sign­ers to cre­ate pro­to­types of their own sneak­ers — Jonah Hill par­tic­i­pated; a T-shirt and tote bag cus­tomiza­tion shop; and a cob­bler shop that show­cased de­sign­ers such as Jack the Rip­per mak­ing shoes in real time.

“As a cul­tural mo­ment, Hype­fest has pro­vided us with a plat­form to en­gage with our au­di­ence di­rectly. Con­nect­ing our com­mu­nity with Adi­das de­sign­ers and invit­ing them into the creative process is in­valu­able to us,” said

Ale­gra O’Hare, vice pres­i­dent of global com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Adi­das Orig­i­nals.

Puma will also be par­tic­i­pat­ing in Com­plexCon and used Hype­fest to re­launch its Puma Cell fran­chise, which in­cludes the En­dura and Venom sil­hou­ettes, and re­lease ex­clu­sive col­or­ways of both styles that were de­signed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mita Ja­pan founder and creative di­rec­tor Shigeyuki Ku­nii. In the Puma Cell Lab, visi­tors were able to de­sign ren­der­ings of their own cell style and the brand pre­viewed an ex­ten­sive col­lab­o­ra­tion pro­gram for the fran­chise, which in­cludes part­ner­ships with MCM, BLENDS, Rhuigi Vil­laseñor of Rhude and Scud­e­ria Fer­rari. This line will have high-end dis­tri­bu­tion and be re­leased on a monthly ba­sis through­out the year.

“Hype­fest is a cat­alyzer of the cul­ture we are in,” said Yas­sine Saidi, who launched Puma’s col­lab­o­ra­tive arm, Puma Se­lect, six years ago. “We are dis­tin­guish­ing our­selves by al­low­ing de­sign­ers and artists to cre­ate new sil­hou­ettes. With this se­ries of col­lab­o­ra­tions, it was im­por­tant to me that it wasn’t seg­mented and it was a global ini­tia­tive. Not just some­thing that is U.S.-based.”

Nike didn’t par­tic­i­pate, but John El­liott sold his Air Force 1s for the first time within his booth, and Alyx, which is de­signed by Matthew Wil­liams, drew long lines by let­ting cus­tomers pur­chase a Nike x Alyx hoodie to en­ter a raf­fle to pur­chase his Air Force 1s. Ja­panese streetwear brand Girls Don’t Cry pre­viewed its Nike SB Dunk Lows that will be avail­able at a later date.

On­line Ce­ram­ics, one of the smaller brands that let cus­tomers take home prod­uct, set up a wagon next to its sell­ing area, which is in­dica­tive of how they op­er­ate in the rapidly grow­ing streetwear space. On­line Ce­ram­ics, which only does whole­sale with Union and Dover Street Mar­ket, typ­i­cally takes up to 30 days to ship its cus­tom tie-dye T-shirts to cus­tomers. And when asked how they want the brand to grow, co­founder Eli­jah Funk didn’t seemed con­cerned.

“That’s not on our minds right now,” said Funk. “We are just happy we don’t have to work and can cre­ate art.”

The two-day event by Hype­beast fea­tured nearly 50 brands, live per­for­mances and more.

The scene atHype­fest.

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