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Globe Meets Liam Green, Hype Fashion Brand’s Co-Founder

The fast growing British fashion brand Hype recently launched its in-demand clothing and accessories within Thailand – Hype’s co-founder Liam Green, who was in the kingdom for the opening of its new flagship store at Bangkok’s Terminal 21 Rama 3 mall, sat down with Globe to discuss the brand worn by A-list stars, such as Tom Hardy and Cara Delevingne.

Established in 2011 when Liam co-founded the company with his friend Bav Samani, Hype has a range of menswear, womenswear, childrenswear, and accessories. GSF Group, one of Thailand’s leading distributors of sports and fashion labels, has brought London-based Hype to the Kingdom, having more than 30 years of retail experience in the local market.

Nowadays, streetwear is increasingly popular across the world, and shoppers in Thailand have embraced many of the best-selling brands during the last few years. Hype’s unique, slick designs and collaborations with high-profile names including Disney and Hello Kitty has put them firmly in the spotlight, and there is a massive buzz about their launch here.

Hello Liam! Thailand is the first country in Southeast Asia to have Hype stores. What makes it the perfect fit for Hype to introduce its range of products to this region?

When looking at Thailand as a country to sell Hype products, we saw that there are many international brands here. We thought it could be a good idea to have something new on the market. We believe that consumers in Thailand would like new, exciting and colourful clothing, which is what Hype brings. Thailand is a massive step for us, to try to penetrate Asian markets, on the back of the immense success we have had in the UK and Europe.

What was it that made you want to start your own fashion line?

I was already working in fashion myself. I was working for a company so I obviously knew that I could do it. I just didn’t have the monetary means to do my own line – we designed a rather rude statement cigarette lighter, and it was a smash hit, going viral online mainly through Tumblr. That was cheaper than bringing out a t-shirt, so the lighter was our foray into making a product. After that, we won a competition on Facebook by a local printing shop, winning 50 t-shirts. We put our designs on them, and they sold out. We then used the cash to further our expansion. Really, it was just two mates kind of doing something.

When was the first time you came to realise Hype was getting attention? Were there any celebrities who wore the brand early on that made you want to pinch yourself?

Seeing one of our t-shirts hanging in the window of Topman, one of the biggest stores in the UK back in the day, was a big moment! Celebrity-wise, it was surreal when Jay-Z was photographed in a Hype t-shirt. His team bought it at Topman on Oxford Street, London.

You recently brought out the ‘Hype x KFC’ summer capsule collection. What inspired you to collaborate with the fast food giant? And did its huge success surprise you?

We were looking to collaborate in the food space. There had been loads of stuff going on with the likes of Travis Scott and McDonalds. A number of food retailers have been trying to have collaborations. Not long ago, there was Primark and Greggs. KFC approached us about it, and as you can see I’m obviously a huge fan! So it was a match made in heaven. The publicity in the UK, where so many media wanted to feature it, I did find it surprising.

The ‘Hype x Harry Potter’ collection is epic! What do you think makes it so special?

I believe Harry Potter is a huge British brand. It’s a real household name and is something we were very excited to be involved with. We try to bring our own edge to it, we bring the colourful prints, and we really try to make it our own. Harry Potter has been licensed a lot over the years, to many different types of products, so we had to respect what had been done before, making it tougher than other collaborations. It was important that we chose interesting fabrications and silhouettes, and that the correct characters were being used.

Hype usually releases around five collaboration collections a year. What percentage overall is from collaborations per year, and what percentage is from regular items?

In a year, I would say around 25% is collaborations, depending on which ones we do. For instance, if we’ve got a big one like Harry Potter or something like that, it could go all the way to 35% or 40%, it just depends on the size of the collaborations we have at the time.

What has been the biggest hurdles you have faced as a company so far?

Hype is a brand now with a 10-year legacy, so I think keeping it going for 10 years is a feat in itself. As trends change, your brand has got to adapt, but you’ve also got to stay true to yourself. I think over that 10 years if you look at us from day one, we’re a lot different from the start to where we are now. So for us, the main challenge is adapting. Covid was a big hurdle for us, but we came out of it a lot stronger. Our online sales went absolutely crazy.

GSF Group has built a strong reputation in Thailand over a number of years working with top brands. Are you excited about the potential success of this partnership?

To be honest with Hype we have always been cautious about who we give it to. When we got approached by GSF, we could see they had a lot of existing stature in the market with previous brands that they had worked with. Just from this new shop here we can see that they have managed to translate the brand very accurately into a new market. So far, sales have been phenomenal, so from us there are no complaints! Our early judgements of the business are only positive. So, we can only grow together, and grow bigger, in the future.

What are your future goals for Hype, and where do you see fashion heading?

For me it’s the international stage now – that’s why we are here really. It is one of our first international growth areas alongside Germany and some other countries. Recently we’ve signed a license deal in France with Jules on menswear. For us it’s all about international as we look to countries like the US. We’ve now got a trademark registered there, that we didn’t used to have. I think fashion is going more digital. So you’ll have both physical and digital versions of clothes: the NFT equivalents can be worn in your preferred metaverse.