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DRAI’S TRAVELS: Hypefest’s Inaugural Festival Brings Exclusive Street Culture Experience to the Masses

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – Lucky sneakerheads, fashion aficionados and streetwear enthusiasts alike gathered around the gloomy New York City weekend (Oct. 6-7) in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for HYPEBEAST’s first-ever festival they dubbed Hypefest. I say ‘lucky’ because Kevin Ma — founder and chief executive of HYPEBEAST — posted on his Instagram a few weeks after the announcement of Hypefest that “Culture and learning shouldn’t have a price attached to it. I will personally cover the cost of tickets to make Hypefest a free experience for all.” The result? Selling out of the initial 10,000 free tickets in a matter of minutes. So what made this a must-visit event (besides the waived admission and being their very first large-scale festival)? Mainly because the limited, exclusive items teased for weeks on Hypefest’s Instagram would only be available to those attending the festival through a location-based ordering system. And what were some of these items on offer, and what makes that such a big deal? We’ll get to that in a second but it was also a chance for attendees to interact with their favorite designers and artists, check out some live music, get hands-on with some of their favorite products, participate in live panels, and of course to flaunt and flex with others in some of their best ‘fits.

For those not completely in the know or may have heard the word/term thrown around vaguely in a conversation, HYPEBEAST is an online platform aimed primarily towards young adults with a focus on fashion, sneakers, street culture, music, art, technology, entertainment — anything else that may be deemed cool and “hype-worthy” for their millions of readers to click and absorb. Since its founding in 2005, HYPEBEAST has grown from a sneaker blog to now a thriving digital media and e-commerce company that has been based in Hong Kong for most of its existence, with offices worldwide to keep up with the flourishing youth culture. To say that they’ve had an influence in streetwear would be an understatement – it was always known as the place to go to keep up with the latest in all things streetwear, fashion, and street culture as a whole. Naturally they’ve come to work directly with a number of brands throughout the years, eventually giving them opportunities to test the waters with physical iterations of their online publication whether it’d be in the form of pop-ups, official parties, installations, etc. over the last year or so. And what has developed from all of this is the physical embodiment of HYPEBEAST, presumably to prepare for the main event that occurred over the weekend for Hypefest.

The festival was spread across the Brooklyn Naval Yard, as brands and vendors filled the numerous stalls inside two large warehouses to give festival goers a first glimpse into their latest exclusive offerings. In between that was an outdoor stage for DJs and rap performances, with a secondary stage by the patio featuring a set from NYC jazz group Onyx Collective as well as other special guests – a place to just sit back and relax to while overlooking the ocean and the city’s iconic concrete jungle. I can’t forget to mention the yacht that was docked by the VIP lounge, plastered with all-over monogram branding from leather goods company MCM for that perfect Instagram post. As people trickled their way in to Hypefest, it was apparent that the first stop most had in mind was the RIMOWA booth, where Virgil Abloh and his Off-White label collaborated with the high-end luggage brand to debut the suitcase collection. The steep $1,700 price tag didn’t deter anyone that had their eyes set on this piece – coming in either black or clear options – as swarms rushed into the booth to order one before selling out, which it most certainly did in just minutes. Knowing that this suitcase would fetch for more than twice that amount in the resell market, many saw this purchase as a no-brainer.

Menswear label ALYX Studio also made a huge impact as they teamed up with Nike for an exclusive Air Force 1 High, and in order to even get a chance to acquire these highly-desired trainers, attendees had to wait in line to buy a collaborative hoodie to get entered into a raffle – not a bad way to generate insane hype as well as sell merchandise without even a second thought. Another booth that got a lot of attention was the THUNDERBOLT PROJECT over at the secondary warehouse, which is a special team-up undertaking with Japanese designer/”godfather of streetwear” Hiroshi Fujiwara and mobile game sensation Pokémon GO. Aside from all the limited hoodies, T-shirts and accessories, the added draw was that they were giving away exclusive products to Pokémon GO trainers that are level 25 or higher at their booth. Not only that, attendees that were in close proximity of the booth were able to claim one-of-a-kind in-game items for their trainers: a fragment design-branded hat and T-shirt to show off to against other envious players. It was also an adidas takeover in this warehouse, where people can sign up to create their own three stripes-branded tote bag or long-sleeve tee, or be lucky enough to design and put together a pair of shoes as they debuted their ‘Makers Lab – Never Made’ stations in Hypefest. Customization artist Jack the Ripper showed up to demonstrate his designs and ideas on putting a shoe together, as well as actor Jonah Hill — who happens to be a purveyor of street culture and fashion — participating as onlookers observed and took photos.

Besides the usual activities those would find in an event like this, there was one that truly stood out from the rest over at the ACRONYM booth — a revered Berlin-based technical apparel company — offering people a unique virtual reality race car experience in partnership with autonomous racing company Roborace. It was here where I got a chance to speak with Errolson Hugh — co-founder of ACRONYM and a prominent figure in fashion all things techwear, luckily catching him in between taking photos and talking with fans — to quickly discuss what he had going on in this unparalleled space:

Please introduce yourself.

I’m Errolson Hugh and I’m the co-founder and principal designer for ACRONYM. We’re here at Hypefest today with Roborace where we’ve done a 360° VR simulator ride and a custom delivery for the Robo car.

How did this project with ACRONYM and Roborace come about here at Hypefest?

The project came about because I’ve known the Roborace guys for a couple of years, and we just had a lot of interesting discussions. And then when I talked to Kevin [Ma] about Hypefest I actually told him that ACRONYM by itself would be too small to handle the event, but then I approached the Roborace team with an idea and thought maybe we can do something together, so it was very organic.

Tell us about your capsule collection here.

So the capsule collection here is more like a merch kind of range — hoodies and T-shirts, and some headwear — and the graphics are based on the graphics we did on the delivery of the car, which you can also see the same graphical elements in the VR simulation ride.

What do you think of the weekend here so far?

It’s really good vibes; everyone’s been super excited to be here and friendly, chill. Good mix of people, a lot of fun interacting with everyone. Really good guests.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I just love being here because it’s a chance to meet the fans, and it’s nice to get out from behind the laptop for once!

Errolson’s out-of-the-box creativity in functional apparel and design have lead to him working with notable brands such as Stone Island’s Shadow Project, UNITED ARROWS, and reviving Nike’s subsidiary ACG line with his ACRONYM label.

Hypefest also offered a dedicated art section featuring live demonstrations from big-name artists like HAZE, STASH, Kevin Lyons, and André & Futura, causing long lines all weekend with signed prints being offered only to those that registered beforehand. It was seemingly the perfect time for fans to get some one-on-one time with them as they admired and looked on the magic the artists were creating right before their eyes, even getting them to sign some of their most prized possessions. After his live art and signing sessions, legendary artist Futura was spotted blissfully roaming the grounds and being amongst the attendees, even creating a circle outside as he gladly drew some of his signature art for those that didn’t get a chance to get a print from the booth earlier. Futura signed and drew on everything from hats, shoes, figurines, to even a brand new gold iPhone XS Max. Not to be outdone, Japanese artists Katsuhiro Otomo, Kosuke Kawamura and their team created a head-turning experience in the Akira booth, of course based on the iconic 1988 animated film. And it wouldn’t be a festival without some celebrity guests coming in: Action Bronson, Gucci Mane, Nigel Sylvester, Aleali May, Travis Scott, and much more. Jaden Smith made a special appearance as well to unveil his “Forces of Nature” collection with G-Star RAW at their respective booth, as fans lined up and took pictures with the young polymath.

Lastly on the music front, some standouts for Saturday included France’s own Busy P partnering with Drai’s Beachclub resident A-Trak for a bangin’ co-headlining show, as well as a set from Odd Future’s Taco drawing crowds in. Sunday saw World’s Fair DJs, Cozy Boys, and to close out the festival was rapper Trippie Redd. But it was Saturday night’s surprise guest, Sheck Wes, that stole the show, coming in fresh from releasing his debut album Mudboy. Sheck’s infectious energy won the crowd over from start to finish as adoring millennials cheered, sang along, and moshed to hits like “Do That,” “Live Sheck Wes,” and of course turn-up song of the moment “Mo Bamba,” causing a frenzy late into the evening. Hypefest’s inaugural festival naturally brought the community together as one for a memorable two-day outing, and like HYPEBEAST’s inception back in 2005, we can only see it getting bigger and better from here.

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