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article imageOp-Ed: How technology will drive the future of creation and curation

By Aron Solomon     Jul 1, 2014 in Technology
When Kevin Ma founded Hypebeast in 2005, its incarnation was as nothing more than a simple, yet quite elegant, sneaker blog.
A rabid “sneakerhead,” Ma, who was born and raised in Vancouver, envisioned a virtual locus where all kinds of information about sneakers could be shared among a global community of like-minded collectors, including where to buy the objects of their desire.
In the past nine years, Hypebeast has become not only one of the world’s premier destinations for style and culture, but an entity that has evolved from a blip on the digital radar, to become an influencer to become, ultimately, a leading global influencer of influencers and one of an elite set of arbiters who determine what what you should want to acquire. In the process, Hypebeast has become a media monolith as well as an actual seller of the products of the brands it hypes.
This is a fundamental transformation for a company that was only in the business of curation. For years, as their popularity boomed, Hypebeast simply curated ideas, people, things, personas, notions, and aspirations. Now they have their own shop that quickly and seamlessly ships throughout the world things built by these brands and people. Yet Hypebeast haven't crossed the line from curation to creation as everything they sell is created and produced by others (with the exception of their own magazine).
Or have they crossed this line? Technology has become the primary driver of what and, more importantly, how we in the global north choose to acquire. First it was the technology itself and, now, while many still have technolust deep within them, others are less concerned with technology as a thing and more with how it can help us get other, even shinier, things we want.
This speaks to our digital future as well as to the future of curation and creation, which will occur both in hyperniche spaces as well as the evolution from there to what Hypebeast has shown is possible. In moving from a sneaker blog to an arbiter of culture and its subsection of style, Hypebeast and their ilk have shown that a digital passion play that is able to attract a hyperniche following can convert to a vast commercial success. As Mr. Ma has pointed out in various media interviews, Hypebeast has never lost money and was actually profitable from the beginning.
Brands have traditionally built their following on trust, a challenge amplified in a digital selling space. Historically, the Searses of the world built their brands on a traditional, in-person trust. They built stores with large square footage and stocked them with consumer products with good margins. When they realized how deep a brand allegiance their customers had built not to the consumer brands available at their store but to Sears itself for selling them, they began to produce their own in-house brands at great margins. Names such as Kenmore became part of American consumer lore as people swore a lifetime of allegiance to them.
Sears themselves were massive pioneers in building brand trust and actually set the stage for the Hypebeasts of the world to profit today through digital commerce. It was back in 1888 that Richard Sears began to use the US Postal Service to promote the store’s watches, all of which were American-made and came with an unheard of six-year guarantee. If the watch didn’t keep perfect time for six years, Sears would fix or replace it, free of charge. Once the postal service began Rural Free Delivery in 1896 and dramatically reduced mailing rates for commercial publications, Sears had a platform on which they would build their brand to become one of the most formidable in American history.
By 1903, not only could you buy everything through the Sears catalog from carpets to bone china, you could buy everything you needed, from the screen to the posters to the admission tickets to set up your own for-profit movie theater. As the greatest Canadian band in history — Rush — knew, Sears had you living in the limelight, as actual limes were one of the ingredients in the gas processors that helped illuminate the screen. By allowing the population to acquire by mail, with full security that if all wasn’t well with the purchase, it would be made well, it did nothing less than lay the foundation for the digital revolution to follow a century later. It was still entirely predicated upon trust, when and where it failed was more often than not from a breach of trust, more often than not a product of avarice.
But the Hypebeasts of the world never fell to avarice. They understood that the future of creation and curation is through converting passion to loyalty, a painstaking process built on authenticity and trust.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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