On the dawn of the launch of their second release, this time in support of people affected by the Syrian crisis, we talk to political streetwear collective HYPEPEACE, whose first release, the super popular "Palestine" sweater - a clever play on the famed "Palace" tri-ferg, with proceeds going to Palestinian youth forum Sharek - shot them straight to Insta-fame and beyond.
KNOTORYUS: Let's talk about the aftermath of the first HYPEPEACE release, the "Palestine" designs. Did you expect it to take off so quickly?
HYPEPEACE: “No, we definitely didn’t. We only started out by making a few pieces, not even a hundred. But then my buddy Akito Hearnshaw posted about us and that triggered the first wave of interest. Mainly people from London started buying our products, but Akito also has followers all the way to Japan, so we immediately got a Japanese order as well as an Italian one. The people who follow Akito here in London, like Vicky Grout, started posting about us too and that, combined with the card we include with orders, asking people to share the cause, was a main factor in the hoodie’s success. Others took note, posted their purchase on Instagram with the hashtag #hypepeace and that got the ball rolling. Instagram plugs by people like director & photographer CRACKSTEVENS also certainly helped. Then big media outlets such as The Fader picked up on it too. It all happened only on the strength of Instagram, actually.”
KNOTORYUS: How did the new ‘PRAY POUR les SYRIENS’-range come about?
HYPEPEACE: “It just came to us. And also because a lot of people were into our first hoodie but were wondering if we weren’t going to do something for Syria. Mainly during the Christmas holidays we got those messages because of the horrendous things happening in Aleppo. Since the situation is so pressing, to say the least, we pushed ahead with these items first, even though we were planning to release our HYPEPEACE logo range too. 60% of our profits are going to Syria Relief, a charity set up to co-ordinate a number of charitable activities that are taking place in the UK, to provide help and support to Syrian families in need, in Syria and outside it. They cover medical aid, healthcare, food & shelter, education, emotional and financial support.”
HYPEPEACE: “At the moment we are also waiting on samples for a range featuring the HYPEPEACE logo, something we had to postpone due to the high demand of the previous release. We’ll be featuring our logo in different ways in this new drop that should come out sometime next week. First there’s the ‘Palestine’ restock, so it’s very busy at the moment.”
KNOTORYUS: Sure sounds like it.
HYPEPEACE: “After that, things will calm down a bit and then in March we’re going to prepare our pop-up tour because we’d like to travel around Europe and open pop-up shops all over the place during the summer. That way people can get their products immediately. Some people had to wait up to three weeks for their deliveries, in countries like Australia or the U.S. it was even worse to get shipments over there on time. We just want people to be able to take their buys home immediately. We want to grow a collaborative movement. We try to be politically involved by attending rallies and supporting events for the causes we believe in, we're not just involved in the creative side.
KNOTORYUS: Do you guys still prefer to operate anonymously?
HYPEPEACE: “The message of HYPEPEACE is what's important here and none of us are particularly fond of being in the spotlight. We've also received a couple of death treats after the 'Palestine' release. It's just nice to operate anonymously in this culture of everybody broadcasting themselves and having a 'personal brand'. We think the causes we support speak for themselves."
KNOTORYUS: It's also extremely cool that you have found a way to protest and resist that actually pushes things forward: people are receiving help from the causes you support, you raise awareness, your clients raise awareness by wearing the garments. Wearing your clothes is a form of activism in itself. I often find myself thinking: “How can I resist and protest more? Should I yell more on my Facebook page or get out on the streets more often?” And then my partner pointed out to me that our office is the most diverse and intersecting place, that the way we hire staff or choose interns is a way of battling the system inside-out. A lot of boardrooms we step into, I'm the only black woman with a real seat at the table. He feels that I am already doing a lot by just being there and being heard. We also always make sure to show our clients how diverse their audience is, so it is not going to do them any favours showing only straight white people in your communication.
HYPEPEACE: “Agreed. With HYPEPEACE we think we've found a way to send out a powerful message without having to talk too much. The hate messages we've received are even more ridiculous because the senders can't latch onto a face or a person. Doing HYPEPEACE we don't have to start rants and the designs themselves are open to interpretation. It's just powerful to walk around the streets wearing a bright white hoodie that has the word 'Palestine' on it. It shows support, but on the other hand it doesn't hate on another group of people either. It's subtle and powerful. Just like what you and Stefaan are doing. Maybe you think it's just a detail, but it has so much effect. The way that you walk into meetings with such a group of people, or other businesses that get to see how you work. You don't even have to engage in any type of discussions, because you are showing them that it works.”
KNOTORYUS: Exactly. You mentioned pop-up shops before, what’s your vision for the retail aspect of HYPEPEACE, will you be stocked in established stores too? I can see the brand displayed alongside Palace or Comme Des Garçons Play at Dover Street Market for instance. It would make a lot more sense than seeing Ballin’ next to Balmain, for instance.
HYPEPEACE: “We’ve had some offers before that we couldn’t take up to due to retail’s high margin costs. It’s also important for us that we can keep contributing to the charities we work with. But we’re currently in talks with a high-end retailer and looking at what stores would make sense to be stocked at. The great thing about HYPEPEACE is that the people who buy it are all super supportive. We’ve got some great requests from people inside and outside of the creative industry asking if they can help out in some way, so hopefully for the pop-up tour we can work with our community too and find some great locations.”
KNOTORYUS: Finally, which endorsement have you enjoyed the most so far? And who would you like to see wearing HYPEPEACE?
HYPEPEACE: “A while back OVO’s Noah “40” Shebib bought our stuff and contacted us saying how much he liked our music. It’s funny how we now get to know all of these Insta-famous people, young L.A. girls with almost 100K followers who buy and post about your products. We've also decided to proactively contact more people from now on. The only one we've sent stuff to so far is Novelist, everyone else has bought our products themselves, but we feel like taking a chance and sending a ‘Palestine’ package to DJ Khaled and Gigi Hadid. They’re both Palestinian, so you never know!”
KNOTORYUS: You've got to try!
HYPEPEACE: “It’d be great if they reacted to it. Oh, and we'd also like to make a little version for baby Asahd.” (laughs)
KNOTORYUS: Omg yes please. Well, good luck, it's an amazing thing that you are doing and thanks for talking to us.
Pre-order the "PALESTINE" items HERE