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Feel the Hype
31 October 2018
Introducing Liam Green and Bav Samani, the savvy duo behind Hype, one of the UK’s biggest independent brands and worth £30m. Pictures by Katrina Campbell. Interview by Maggie Davis
It’s 10.35am on a blustery Wednesday and Liam Green has woken up with flu. Me and the photographer, at Hype HQ in Leicester for today’s shoot, are sitting in the reception of the buzzy ex-warehouse spread over two floors, complete with slouchy sofas, table tennis table and a replica Only Fools and Horses Robin Reliant. The A Star is Born soundtrack thrums from the stereo. Young, cool, Hype-clad twenty-somethings mill around the office with neon nails and edgy hairstyles.
Admirably, Liam has managed to drag himself out of bed, just in time for our meeting. Tall and striking, he’s clutching his tiny Chihuahua, Archie. “Archibald when he’s naughty,” Liam grins. Liam wears one of his signature Hawaiian-print shirts while Bav, his business partner of seven years, and fellow Leicester lad, wears a classic black Hype hoodie with shorts and trainers. With their boyish charm and can-do attitudes, they embody the youthful spirit of their brand. That optimism seems to reverberate around the walls of the light-filled 25,000ft space.
In the seven years since it launched, Hype has become a truly international brand transforming itself from a grassroots local T-shirt label to a global men’s, women’s and kidswear brand, stocked in around 2,500 locations in 24 countries. As well as being one of Next's most successful brands, it’s big in Iran. And Israel. “We’ll be in 50 countries by the end of next year,” says Bav. Last year they appointed Mike Thompson as chief operating officer, to help achieve this goal. Remarkably, despite Hype’s global success and numerous franchises, licenses and collaborations, it’s still an independent brand with Liam and Bav driving all the creative and business decisions.


Hype's hottest picks for kids

The Hype story began in 2011, when Liam, now 25, and Bav, now 32, launched a range of £2 black lighters with a small white ‘Hype’ logo on the social media network of the moment, Tumblr. “There were lots of home-grown brands and we were thinking and were, like, ‘what’s all the hype about,’ and that was it.” The name; short, simple and impactful was established and the lighters went viral on Tumblr. 
The pair met working for a retail company in Leicester. Bav, who had already studied for a master’s in communication design at Kingston University, enlisted aspiring graphic designer Liam, who had completed a year of graphic design at nearby De Montfort University, to design his club night flyers for £30 a go. That would in turn pay for Liam’s night out. Socialising was to become an important foundation for the brand with the pair later hosting regular nights at their London shop in Boxpark in Shoreditch.
The lighters weren’t generating much cash so Liam and Bav's next step was to enter a T-shirt printing competition on Facebook. They put forward a print of a defaced Einstein, complete with a nose ring and tattoos. They won the competition and received a 100 free T-shirts, which sold out within two hours online. They invested that money back and re-released more products. The rest is retail history.

Soon afterwards Topman messaged them via Facebook. “We got a message through their shirting buyer who said ‘this is not a joke’. We went in for a meeting and it was quite surreal,” says Liam. “Our theory was say yes and worry about it later,” laughs Bav. By September 2012, they were in Topman, Oxford Circus taking £17,000 in two days and quickly became the retailer’s biggest concession. Numerous other retailers from ASOS to Schuh wanted a slice of the action. Soon, celebrities including Jay-Z and 50 Cent were sporting the label.



Fast-forward seven years and Hype is practically a household name. Mutter the word ‘Hype’ to any British kid between the age of 11 and 21 today and they will tell you that’s where their lunch box, school bag or favourite hoodie is from. But it’s the backpacks that are currently flying from the warehouse with the back-to-school trading period of August now being as important as Christmas. “Kids usually have to wear a plain uniform so the backpacks have become a vessel for youngsters to show who they are,” says Liam.

As ever, Liam and Bav are looking forward, thinking ahead, innovating. “We now have 300 different backpacks. We’re adding charms, pompoms and customisation with Next so you can get your initials on a backpacks [due to launch in March next year]. We wanted to have special collections for Next.” As a result, you can also look forward to Hype FC, a boys’ football range, Hype Studios, dancewear for girls and Hype Active performance technical sportswear with loud prints scheduled to launch next spring. Menswear and womenswear also remain key to the brand with the hoodies, joggers, printed leggings and underwear all big sellers.

Like all good independent brands these days, ethics and the environment are also a key focus. The pair are in talks with ethical producers and working out initiatives to reduce packaging. They are already planning direct shipments and are planning for all bags from our website orders to be biodegradable within eight months. “That’s 80,000 packages just in the month of August so the savings will be massive,” says Bav.

Later, over a Red Bull in Hype HQ’s in-house pub, as Archie chews my laces, Liam and Bav reveal the secret of their success. “Most of the decisions have been made by going with the creative. Going with our gut,” says Bav. “We were self-funded, we had nothing to lose. You could see that carefree spirit.” And despite being a hugely successful brand, the bombshell that: “it was never driven by commercial.” Business graduates everywhere, take note. Following their instinct, living and breathing their brand, these two are rewriting the rules of retail.  



Sporty Hype hits for women
Everyday Hype essentials for men
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