Street cred isn’t something you can buy, but Eugene Kan has plenty of it. With his oversize glasses, messy hair and cool, sneakerhead style, the former editorial director of Hypebeast is now running Maekan, a media company that he co-founded with friend and business partner Alex Maeland.
“We met at Hypebeast and enjoyed the process of building that company,” says Kan, a creative storyteller at heart. “We’ve always believed stories to be a critical pillar for creativity. When done well, they can answer the critical ‘why’, as in why should something exist and why should we care about it? It also provides people with the opportunity to create history and legacy.”
Kan had a vision of “telling captivating stories in a way that respects our audience”. This ran counter to much of the existing traditional media players who saw “audiences as a nameless and faceless entity” and just another pageview.
So, in 2016, he and Maeland launched Maekan, an audio-visual publication that publishes content in the form of stories, news and podcasts – all centred around celebrating creative culture. Instead of traditional advertising revenue, the site has zero ad space and operates under a patronage model with monthly or yearly membership fees.
“A big part of Maekan was trying to crack, ‘What is the future of media?’” says Kan. “We’re definitely an industry in flux and the rulebooks are constantly changing, so we were really curious how we could build something that could uphold a high level of ethics, quality and thought- provoking content, while still being able to sustain it.”
Born and raised in the small Canadian town of Fort Saskatchewan, the 35-year-old Kan is no longer “the lone Asian” and has called Hong Kong home for more than 13 years. “The best part about Hong Kong is its ability to execute and find creative solutions with limited resources,” he says. “I love executing within well-defined parameters because it forces one to focus.”
Beyond Maekan, the pair have set up Adam Studios, a creative agency that “allows us to create work we’re really proud of,” says Kan. They’ve also co-produced a conference series called Unexpected Connections with Long Beach-based InterTrend, which brings together creative talents from around the world. Speakers at the 2018 event included artist David Choe, Kenya Hara of Muji, John C Jay of Fast Retailing and Lindsay Jang of Yardbird.
Next up, Maekan is launching a small e-commerce arm for what Kan calls “meaningful products created with friends. We’ve always loved product but were never quite happy with the process and story behind why things were created. And naturally there wasn’t a ton of great curation in e-commerce experiences out there.” If that’s not enough, Kan hints that a series of dinner events and another Unexpected Connections conference are also slated for 2020.
A big believer in self-awareness, Kan shares his top tips for success: “Success and happiness are by-products of really knowing yourself inside and out. Asking yourself the difficult questions and carrying a high level of honesty with yourself goes a long way.”
Coat: Bottega Veneta