Arby Li has always been ahead of the game – which is why six years after he started as an intern at Hypebeast, Kevin Ma, the Founder and CEO of the sneaker and streetwear platform, made him Editor in Chief at the age of just 26.
“I was reading Hypebeast every day for about seven years before I started interning. I knew every single article. I thought if I didn’t work for Hypebeast I’d be reading it every day anyway, so why not make it my job?” he tells Grazia in Riyadh during the Fashion Futures conference.
After beating the competition “by any means necessary” in his own words – “If everyone was writing five articles, I’d stay behind and write eight, and then just grind through to make sure I wasn’t replaced,” he recalls – he copped a coveted Editorial Assistant’s position. He then made some clever key moves in the growth and development of brand, which included leading the social media strategy, starting a data department, and launching an in-house creative agency.
Arby Li in Acronym – a built-to-last, Berlin-based brand with a sustainable ethos
By January 2018, he was the clear choice as Editor in Chief, thus anointing him as the ultimate arbiter of today’s hype culture.
For the record, today he’s wearing the Acronym Nike Lunar Force Ones – a collaboration with the cult Berlin-based techwear brand, and one of the 56 pairs of sneakers he owns. This is modest by most collector’s standards, but instead of ambitions to add to his haul, he’s challenged himself to part with 95 per cent of his possessions by the end of this year.
Sorry, what? “You don’t actually remember everything you own until you categorise it all, and the space it takes up is also such a burden on your mind,” Arby explains. “I think freeing myself of that will allow me to focus more on other areas. Also, a bunch of my sneakers are in Hong Kong where it’s very humid, so are they really going to last for that long? Maybe I’d have been better off spending my money on something else.”
And, the high priest of hype himself, Virgil Abloh agrees with him. “I was actually talking with Virgil two years ago about how kids are spending their income, or large majorities of their income, on things, rather than saving for the future. We’ll get to a point where they start realising that there might actually have been better investments than these material items, and Virgil understands that well.”
Is Arby saying, “Don’t believe the hype”? He clarifies, “First and foremost, I do consider myself a fan of Hypebeast, but you get to a certain point where you really can’t keep buying more items because you don’t have any more storage space. I think it’s good that it challenges brands to make something more long-lasting or meaningful.” With his proven track record of predicting trends, he observes, “Sooner or later, I think our generation will understand that there’s only so many clothes you can wear in your lifetime.”
Gen-Z’s in very safe hands.