5 Minutes With Liam Green, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Hype

Hype has grown from a fledgling online fashion retailer to one that has collaborated with influential pop culture brands, such as Jurassic Park, The Simpsons and even Call of Duty. The Retail Gazette spoke to co-founder Liam Green in the advent the latest collaboration with Disney.

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Hype co-founder

Tell me about the Hype.

Hype was founded in 2011, after winning a t-shirt design competition run by an independent printing firm on its Facebook page. We defaced an image of Albert Einstein with ear stretchers and piercings and the first prize was having the t-shirt printed which then sold out within hours.

We knew we were onto something but had only £600 and a cigarette lighter we had previously designed bearing the slogan “get your own f*cking lighter”. My co-founder Bav and I then made the decision to take a chance and turn up unannounced on the doorsteps of wholesalers, retailers and warehouses with nothing but a scrunched up floral t-shirt.

Congrats on the new collaboration with Disney. Can you tell me a bit about it?

Everyone loves Disney. We’ve been luckily enough to have already created an exclusive, limited edition accessories range and now we have a clothing range which showcases Hype’s latest designs combining Disney’s iconic characters.

The collection includes a character-covered collection of sweats, t-shirts, signature backpacks and accessories for men, women and children. It’s available to purchase in Disney, Next, River Island, John Lewis, Debenhams and Topman stores and also launched online on Hype’s website on November 29 – until it sells out.

The cult following around Disney is crazy and a perfect match made in heaven collaboration, I think this is why the success of it has been so huge.

There’s an increasing demand for fashion retailers to collaborate with big brands. Do you think there’s a reason behind this trend?

Working on different collaborations with big brands keeps your brand interesting and relevant. It gives Hype the opportunity to reach new, wider audiences by expanding our horizons and we get to see our designs continue to grow and evolve with the business.

It’s a great feeling to witness Hype associated with brands such as Disney that we have grown up with and show loyalty to as consumers ourselves. It also creates great stories and talking points aside from the regular collections we produce, and gives us more creative freedom to create something out of the box.

“Working on different collaborations with big brands keeps your brand interesting and relevant.”

What gap in the UK retail market does Hype strive to address?

Hype has a rebellious and original edge to it as our designs tend to go against the status quo. We attract 14-25 year olds looking to put their own unique stamp on their fashion choices. Our backpacks for example come in a wide variety of different designs, perfect for millennials striving towards a sense of individuality.

How is Hype’s business model different to its main competitors?

It’s the influence and originality of our brand. Hype started off as a social media movement on Tumblr. From there we’ve built a loyal following and essentially turned the “hype” – excuse the pun – surrounding the brand into a profitable business. Our model also crosses own-brand sales, wholesale and licensing to maximise the brand’s exposure whereas our competitors tend to be more silo in approach.

What’s in store for Hype for 2019?

Our focus is on international growth and expansion and growing our ecommerce. We’re now operating in 26 international markets and we hope to continue to take Hype global. Our website in particular is showing phenomenal growth.

How is Hype addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry as a whole?

We champion high street retailers who are Hype stockists – 1300 of which are in the UK. With social media and the ability to sell our products via our official website, our products can be sent directly to our customers. Therefore, we are confident in our proposition and believe that are business model is agile and adaptable. We’re also concentrating on driving sales towards bricks with in-store activations such as our live printing stations and celebrity and influencer appearances.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

Sourcing and retaining great talent. The retail industry is constantly evolving and it’s important for us to retain a close knit team. Therefore, we’re keen to have on board with us forward thinking, talented, social media savvy employees to add to our Leicester-based firm. With IBM recently opening an Innovation Centre in Leicester, we’re seeing the applications flooding in.

Describe your role and responsibilities at Hype.

It’s pretty broad, while I’m a co-founder and creative director, I still sign off on all designs, meet all new suppliers, and manage the creative and marketing team as a whole.

“The cult following around Disney is crazy and a perfect match made in heaven collaboration, I think this is why the success of it has been so huge.”

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

From the age of 14 years old I was a freelance graphic designer, mainly creating designs for music labels and flyers for club nights, which is how I met my business partner Bav. Then when I went onto university to study design, which seemed like the safest option at the time. After a year of studies I quit university while I was working for a company that created own-label garments for high-street brands such as River Island and Topman. At this stage, Hype was still in its infancy.

What got you into retail in the first place?

The plan was never to launch a clothing line funnily enough, it was something we enjoyed and something which we were good at. For us, the creative industry as a whole means doing something fun and going where the wind takes us, life shouldn’t always be so serious.

Unlike other more traditional industries, retail is constantly evolving. Fashion trends are constantly changing, you never know which new up-and-coming brand is right around the corner or where your designs will take you next. It’s more than just having a successful clothing range, we like to inspire other fashion start-ups.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

My multi-disciplined design background helps to focus on Hype’s core strength of product design, sales and marketing, while staying true to its brand ethos. Our strategic partnership with and initiated by Samsung, allows us to focus on these key areas whilst Samsung provides us with a 24/7 order management system, inventory purchasing, logistics support, warehousing and invoicing.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Keeping myself within realistic boundaries. I constantly design collections that are too huge to retail because I simply love product. Having to pull myself back, put on a commercially-focused hat and cut the collection down to something manageable, is something that I always find difficult.

And the most rewarding?

For me the most rewarding part of the business is seeing the Hype team progress, from starting as a junior and working their way through the company. We’ve had senior designs that started in our warehouse and it’s great to see them flourish in a role they can be creative in and help to drive the business forward.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

Be original and push boundaries, don’t be scared to be the person at the forefront and make sure to support your ideas with a logic business approach – people remember the originals, not the followers.

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