At the beginning of 2018, Highsnobiety raised £8.5m in funding and reached over 6M social followers across its channels. A blog turned media platform for millennial males, the site reaches an audience that had previously been in hiding; a heaven sent opportunity for brands. Now, you’ll find stellar content on rap, street art and trainers, which takes form in catchy videos and sharp editorial. We speak to Atip Wananuruks about how he worked his way up the retail industry to finally becoming fashion director.
When did you first become interested in fashion?
We emigrated from Thailand when I was four and money was tight so we’d go to jumble sales to find clothes. I developed my taste rummaging. I also used to spend a lot of time in LA and Chicago seeing family. Going to the States I was overwhelmed by retail - the sheer size of the shops and the selection available is unreal. The first pair of ‘sneakers’ I got my hands on were some basic Nike plimsolls. I started pretty young!
Was a career in fashion something that you always wanted?
I wanted to be an architect but I was never good at maths or physics. I got into art school and studied graphics and typography but I wasn't being creative. I decided to give the place up to someone who would appreciate it more.
What was your first job? What did you learn from it?
I got a summer job at Harrods for Kurt Geiger and that cemented my love of shoes. I was working full-time for two years. When I was 21 I was poached to open the Camper store in Covent Garden, which was their first store outside of mainland Spain. When working in retail you develop a great understanding about why people want to buy things.
How did you get your role at Highsnobiety?
I started off as a freelance contributor because one of my friends pulled me on board. Then it just snowballed as I worked my way up the company.
Talk us through what an average day looks like?
I’ve got a baby so I’m awake from around 6am and my day doesn’t finish until midnight. We’re a global company and the internet doesn’t sleep. On a day-to-day basis I’m responsible for liaising with the creative director and head of production, whilst developing partnerships in the UK, Berlin, and so on. And I still do what I love, which is create editorial content.
What characteristics do you need to tackle the fashion industry?
Hard work, honesty, integrity, and you’ve got to put the hours in. My advice would be to always keep on learning and evolving, have a strong sense of who you are and what you want to achieve. Never be afraid to ask for help; remember that people make the world go round.
How has the magazine evolved?
Originally it was just an extension of the site but it’s the one place where we’re not restricted by advertisers. As we’re growing, we’d like to see the magazine take on a life of its own. In the future, we’re looking to concentrate on moving image a lot more as it’s more engaging than a still image, especially for the younger generation. I don’t believe print will ever die but what’s created should be timeless, collectable and a reference point. Our CEO started Highsnobiety in his bedroom 14 years ago; since the very beginning it’s been about the products and the stories around them.
What does streetwear stand for today? Is it in danger of becoming a victim of its own hype?
There’s always that possibility. We’ve just written an article about whether the streetwear phenomenon bubble will burst. How kids want to wear clothes isn’t the same as when the adults were in charge so there’s still a space for another Alexander McQueen to come along and disrupt the fashion world.
For brands looking to get featured in Highsnobiety, how do they get your attention?
Make sure your product is high quality with a sense of uniqueness. Even though nothing is original anymore, you should look to consistently make records over a one-hit wonder.
What skills do you think new designers need to make it today?
Every buyer worth their salt will look at the product first then the story around it. That’s key.
It’s expensive to become a fashion designer, do you have any tips?
Whatever you can do to promote the product you’ve created, go for it. Once you’ve started creating some interest and cash flow, that’s when you reinvest. It’s not a good idea to spread yourself too thin financially.
How important is mentorship?
I was taken under the wing of my buyer Chris Mackintosh who taught me how to look at retail. Now I often get messages through social media from an amateur asking for my opinion. That’s a good way to start.
Do you think we need to see more collaboration in the industry?
Totally. Collaborate with like-minded individuals and that will help elevate you and other people around you. Creatives work better when they work together.