KICKS CREW’s Ross Yip Chats MIRROR Collab and Sneakers in HK
Hong Kong/ Fashionista/ Style

Ross Yip, KICKS CREW COO, Talks MIRROR Collaboration, Sneakers in Hong Kong

Ross Yip Kicks Crew COO Talks Mirror Collaboration Sneakers in Hong Kong 3

Ross Adrian Yip is co-founder of KICKS CREW, a global marketplace that facilitates the sale of sneakers that are rocking the markets internationally and locally, retailing every brand, style, price point, and function. KICKS CREW is a well-known brand in North America, but to the surprise of many, holds deep roots in Asia, namely Hong Kong, Taipei and Shanghai.

The New York City-born Hong Kong native joined co-founder Johnny Mak to build KICKS CREW as a community and marketplace for sneakerheads. From deadstock hype releases, hard-to-find OGs to your everyday lifestyle sneakers.

The Beat Asia spoke with Ross as KICKS CREW’s mega-collaboration with Hong Kong boy-band MIRROR enters its second phase with the release of throwback collectible trading cards of each twelve members. 

Ross Yip, KICKS CREW COO, Talks MIRROR Collaboration, Sneakers in Hong Kong

On creating KICKS CREW with friend and co-founder Johnny Mak

"When Johnny was 17, he began reselling sneakers to the US and China. For fifteen years, he ran a business all by himself, distributing shoes. At a certain point of scale, he realised that platforms can be limiting - and did not want to be dependent on them and sacrifice long-term value creation.

“Him and I felt the mass audience was being left out. We decided to pivot the business into a marketplace and started looking at different pockets of opportunity across the world, Hong Kong being one of them”

“Our biggest markets are in North America, namely the US and Canada. Johnny had years of experience operating in the US through amazon and eBay, in addition to the large addressable market and being the birthplace of sneaker culture - naturally it’s where we started doing business.”

On competing internationally and entering the Hong Kong sneaker market

“From a business standpoint, we have overarching benefits over Hong Kong’s own sneaker street from selection, price, and authenticity. We also provide a much-needed solution for the brick-and-mortar retailers, we kept a few of them alive by acting as a channel to move inventory, especially during Covid-19 when their doors were practically shut” Covid-19 also drove e-commerce adoption much higher and we’re also seeing the effects.

“[International online shoe platforms] generally haven’t spent much time localizing the marketing effort in Hong Kong - to them location means currency and language adaption on the website, but they didn’t understand how to unlock the opportunity of Hong Kong. This city has had a lot of contribution to sneaker culture combined with a fashion forward consumer base.

“I’d love to deliver the best selection and price for customers in Hong Kong, storytell through meaningful brand partnerships that resonate with a mass audience, I believe the market will react.”

On influence Hong Kong sneaker culture and Mong Kok’s sneaker street

“When I was young, I went to Sneaker Street after school a lot to look for shoes. When you don't have Instagram, you either read a magazine or go to Sneaker Street. It’s a huge source of inspiration for sneaker culture and birthed a lot of cool store and collaboration stories.”

“Without the element of mainland [Chinese] shopping for shoes, sneaker street have been struggling. I've always believed that platforms, digital experiences and retail can exist together.

“If I were to try to tell an average Hong Kong person what I'm trying to do here, I'd say we are building the online Hong Kong sneaker street.”

On collaborating with Hong Kong boy-band MIRROR

"Working with MIRROR is a dream. They're such a diverse group, and their audience are very diverse. After working with them for the first time and seeing the engagement - the sheer power and loyalty of their fans, I think it was the right decision.

“When we were talking to our investor Pacific Century Group about looking into opening up the Hong Kong market and the idea to partner with MIRROR came out about how we can break into the mass market.”

“Hong Kong is home to eight million people, whereas a “sneakerhead” segment could be a very small sub-segment. Sneakerheads have an existing shopping behaviour and a certain mind share of where they shop. It's quite hard to change that.

“Everybody's got feet and wearing sneakers in Hong Kong. With MIRROR, we can speak to an entirely different audience and align ourselves with Hong Kong’s biggest key opinion leaders.”

On the MIRROR x KICKS CREW partnership

“Phase one of the partnership allowed fans to sign up and receive a limited number of twelve box sets, including hoodies, signed Polaroid photos and memorabilia.”

“On April 17th, we launched our gift with purchase. Every week, there will be three members of the MIRROR group announcing a code that you can use when buying a pair of shoes on KICKS CREW at checkout to redeem a set of memorabilia MIRROR CREW trading cards and MIRROR CREW dog tag of your favourite idol.”

“The MIRROR x KICKS CREW trading cards feature each of the twelve group members, in the style of classic Hong Kong Yes Cards. The idol cards have a holographic surface, their autographs. It was a fun project to execute.”

“Even though I was born in New York City, I grew up here, I went to Diocesan Boys' School. I went to sneaker street every day, I was into sneakers and trading cards, and that was my part of nostalgia. I bought trading cards - from Pokemon, Digimon, Magic: The Gathering to, Yes! Cards. It’s great to pay homage to the culture and add our own take on creating branded collectibles.”

On his favourite shoes and styles

“I had a specific style in high school and then entered finance. I have gone through a phase of sneakers and then shoes with suits and then back to sneakers and then just went through all the spectrum of running shoes, skate shoes, Vans, Converse, and Jordan's, and I have finally arrived at wearing New Balances, specifically the 992s.”

“I travel a lot and I need a pair of shoes just versatile enough. I specifically own the 992 JJJJound collaboration.:

“I only own about fifty pairs of shoes which isn't a lot for what people think.”

On 2023 plans for KICKS CREW

“This year, we’ll continue to focus on delivering the best experience: selection, price and shipping time - with dedicated marketing efforts in key markets. Startups like ours do have to be very conscious of where we spend our efforts and our capital.”

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