Eugene Kan: The Beast Behind the Hype

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A name synonymous with providing the latest news for everything you need to know about street culture; from sneakers to gadgets, streetwear tips to urban art, Hypebeast is one of the most influential style and culture sites you’ll find on the interwebs. Satiating the tastebuds of around 3 million unique viewers monthly, Hypebeast’s first ever editor and now managing editor Eugene Kan has been part of the team since the site’s inception in 2005. Responsible for maintaining the creative content of the ever growing platform, we sat down with Eugene at Acclaim Magazine’s Carbon Festival and probed him on the challenges of upholding Hypebeast’s reputation in a world wide web full of re-blogs, why it is that they’re starting a print magazine in a digital world and what constitutes a Hypebeast reader…

What is it that you do at Hypebeast and how did you start off there?
I’m the Managing Editor over at Hypebeast and I originally began over five years ago as a freelance contributor. I stuck with it over time and eventually got hired as Hypebeast’s first ever editor.

What was the original concept for Hypebeast when you joined and do you feel it has strayed much in direction since then?
The original concept of Hypebeast was heavily rooted in street culture including art, sneakers and fashion. However since then, it’s been less about us abandoning our roots but about expanding both vertically and horizontally. Hypebeast now encompasses contemporary and high fashion as well as a greater emphasis on all things creative including art, design, music as well as more lifestyle driven topics such as technology, food and opinion. Unlike some people who get their foot in the door via streetwear and quickly forget about it once they turn the corner, I think it’s important to embrace your beginnings or at least pay homage to them if you’re truly intent on moving forward. We are where we are today because streetwear had an integral part in our growth and interests.

Do you have any advice for our readers who want to start up a successful design/style/fashion website?
It’s tougher than ever to start something up, however that’s not to say there isn’t room for a good, genuine product. Creating a news site on your own is virtually impossible and I find it pointless to go up against established news sites like a Hypebeast and report on virtually the same topics. Your voice is your greatest heterogeneous product, as is your ability to create. I wouldn’t say anything is impossible but make sure you’re contributing to the overall landscape with the content you’re posting. That means you’re adding value and contributing on a cultural level.

Judging from a plethora of style and sneaker websites that may come across as a mass of rehashing and re-blogging of very similar content, how do you ensure that HB stands out in originality and creativity?
For us, we were fortunate to start up quite early so we were able to take the route of being a “news-based” site. However, we’re continually trying to push ourselves creatively in regards to content creation. Rather than finding news, we hope to create news. This has a much stickier effect and allows for not only branding (through the visual direction) but also makes the job more rewarding. You are able to control multiple facets of the process rather than focusing on the final product of others.

What challenges does your site face the most in regards to retaining your massive readership?
Maintaining relevance is always a difficult challenge that we never take for granted. Continually staying thirsty for information and watching developments is important. At the end of the day, we’re not going to say we’re NOT a trend-based site, it is something that inevitably represents a component of Hypebeast and of course fashion. We also try to make sure that we do is as I previously stated, contributing to the overall culture. Sure our platform is largely product driven but in regards to the consumption of product, we try not to look at it from that vantage point as a buyer’s guide but rather as a place where we celebrate design and creativity.

You’re soon launching a print publication in an environment where we’re told that “print is dying”. Why choose this medium at such a risky time?
We’re all aware of the current downward trend in print media. Yet there are often times when you do something simply cause you enjoy it and print to Hypebeast represents a big passion. Magazines obviously were/are an integral part of the media landscape so we’ve never really quite lost sight of this and hope to create something that also offers an offline and tangible aspect of Hypebeast.

Where do you see Hypebeast in ten years?
Tough to say, 10 years is a long time. I think that within five years would be a better tim line for us. But in the next little while, aside from the print magazine and the launch of an online store, we hope to continue the development of our video component. This is something that will only get stronger over time not only for Hypebeast but the general realm of media. Additionally we’d like to develop individual aspects of Hypebeast and hopefully create categories and sections that can subsist on their own, like a Hypebeast Design, or Hypebeast Arts.

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