Up-close-and-personal with Hipland creator Zack Curran

Up-close-and-personal with Hipland creator Zack Curran

Words by Keane Fletcher
Images by Jac Lee 

Have you ever wondered how a website like Hipland works? Well this week we've got your questions covered. That's right folks, today we're going behind-the-scenes with the man who started it all, the ghost in the machine, the man behind the curtain, Hipland creator: Zack Curran.

A little info to get you started: it might come to you as a shock, but Hipland wasn't always the one-stop-entertainment-shop it is today. In fact, it started out rather humbly — as most good things do — as a small scale print-on-demand business, delivering high-quality designs to the hipster masses. Says Curran:

For some reason a few years ago I thought it would be a good idea to have a print-on-demand business, selling printed t-shirts with parody designs on them...well, we don’t really need to talk about how terrible that idea was.

But it was a start, a foot in the door of the online world, and a new arena in which to flex and develop his passions. You see, Curran knows exactly what it's like to be on the other side of the entertainment business. As a professional actor for over 14 years he knows just how precarious and difficult the industry can be.

Whether it’s acting, producing, arts, music, dance, design or basically any other creative outlet - it’s hard, you have to be tough to survive. But also, as a society we don’t make it particularly easy for artists and creatives. We love the fruits of their labor but we are reluctant to support them in any meaningful way.

Cue the meaningful synchronicity.

Says Curran:

I've always loved the underground, alternative culture of New York, Berlin, London and Melbourne. I’m intrigued by the creative studios, the pop up galleries, the underground shows, the secret performances... When COVID hit and I couldn’t be an actor anymore, I naturally started searching for a new form of creative expression. I wanted to create something that was sustainable in terms of how could I continue to work creatively even when the world stopped.

In other words, he needed a pandemic proof platform. And the answer was sitting right in front of him.

I had the print-on-demand part of the website already, so I started the zine as a way of bringing a bit of culture into the brand. That is until I quickly realised that this is where the heart of the brand was. Anyone can make and sell a T-shirt. But I started asking why someone would want to put a particular design on a particular garment. Why someone would write a particular lyric. The heart, or the 'why' of everything, was in the stories of the people connected to the community.

That's when things changed. Even though the country was in the grip of the pandemic, even though Curran was back living at home with his Mum, he put every dollar he could muster back into the business in the hopes of helping it grow. 

I started reaching out to small brands that I found on Reddit and Instagram. Truth be told, I reached out to a lot of well known brands too but they were not interested if they replied at all…. But the smaller creatives I spoke with were thrilled that someone would want to tell their story. And not only that, they couldn’t believe a streetwear boutique in Australia wanted to place an order and stock their products!

And this is the part where we tell you that everything snowballed, that one sale led to another and the website got bigger and bigger and that's how the Hipland you know and love arrived at where it is today...but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Nothing in life or business is ever as linear as you’d like it to be. It was much more like throwing a water bomb full of paint at a wall…. A huge fucking mess. In reality, there were months without sales, cashflow was beyond negative. At one point Facebook shut down our ad account which literally buckled the business and for months I thought Hipland was literally dead. So much so that I had to get a restaurant job and start thinking about what the actual fuck I was going to do with my life after yet another monumental failure.

But good things take time. And innovation. With funds severely limited and the whole entertainment business feeling the strain of the pandemic, Curran decided to take the website in an even more outrageous and ambitious direction. A couple of last minute voice-over gigs and a few COVID support payments later...

I thought maybe a pop-up would be cool. So I did it, traded for a week, covered costs and it was awesome. Suddenly, instead of telling stories on stage I was now telling them in a store. I was able to actually see and talk to the people who were buying our stuff. Sales and profits were literally a by-product of what I had been doing my whole life as an actor. Telling stories.

It may have taken Curran a while to arrive at the idea, but in the end the pop-up proved to be a much needed success as well as another crucial development in Hipland's quest for world-domination. And it wasn't happening in a vacuum either. Other businesses were starting to take notice.

Enter Mirvac's WeShow, a radical new approach to retail that's giving smaller brands the support they need to launch their very own full-blown retail outfit. And as of November 22nd, Hipland will be an offical partner, with their brick & mortar store opening for a 4-month residency at Kawana Shopping World on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

We are finally able to bring to life what my vision for the brand has been for all these years. To share the stories and creations of underground and emerging brands and artists and introduce them into the Australian market where they otherwise wouldn’t get the chance. It’s a total game changer in terms of what’s available on the Sunshine Coast and at Kawana at present.

So there you have it folks. The full story, minus the blood and the tears and the numerous cases of commiserative beer. A whole lot of struggle and a whole lot of ambition. But the results speak for themselves. So in the end what is Hipland exactly? And how can we explain why it does what it does? 

It’s a retail boutique with a focus on providing a platform to underground and emerging brands whilst also shining a light on street and non-mainstream culture. We bring together the worlds of fashion, music, arts and story to champion creatives and story tellers. In the end we hope to affect a change and provide an alternative way of thinking to the mass consumer economy.

You can check out Hipland's store at Kawana Shopping World from November 22nd.

Thanks for stopping by Hipland!