Exploring Hiking Patrol's Journey with Wai Tsui: Past, Present, Future, and the Keen Collaboration.
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On the occasion of the new collaboration between Hiking Patrol and footwear brand Keen, One Block Down sat down with Wai Tsui, founder of Hiking Patrol, to discover more about his life, work, and this new collaboration.
From the origin of Hiking Patrol to its evolution into product collaboration and what the future holds.
Scroll below to read the full interview
Hi Wai, what is your background, and how did you start Hiking Patrol?
Hey everyone, I'm Wai, and I'm the creator and curator behind Hiking Patrol. Hiking Patrol came to life in 2019, just before the pandemic hit. It's a curated digital platform that revolves around the perfect balance between lifestyle and outdoor exploration. Over the past couple of years, we've embarked on campaigns and photo shoots for various brands. In the last year, we even delved into product collaborations, like the incredible project we did with Keen. However, it all began as a personal source of inspiration for myself and my friends. Back in 2017, I started this as a private account, only making it public in 2019. Interestingly, not many people are aware that I started curating content two years prior to its public launch. So, that's a bit about me. And now, we're pleased to announce our second global collaboration of the year with Keen. This is something that fills us with tremendous excitement. This is something we're incredibly excited about.
So, the goal behind the Instagram page was to share visuals, content, and products you liked
Absolutely, this was always intertwined with the curation aspect. Naturally, there are numerous similar accounts within the community. Yet, it proved to be an intriguing endeavor to test whether there was a possibility of engaging in product collaborations beyond the scope of curation alone. I've always had a strong connection with the products, and even within these product collaborations, curation remains a significant part. It's fulfilling to demonstrate and inspire other accounts out there, showcasing the feasibility of achieving global product collaborations through an online digital platform. This challenge also presents a valuable opportunity for personal growth.
Did you have a background in studies and work in fashion, or did it come straight from passion?
I've actually served as the brand manager for New Balance Lifestyle and Puma Sportstyle in Norway. Additionally, I was a member of the team at Blender Agency, a Scandinavian fashion agency, where I held the role of brand manager for Carhartt-WIP and New Balance. More recently, I also had the opportunity to work with Holzweiler, a Scandinavian fashion brand. My focus has consistently revolved around the urban, street, and lifestyle sphere. Given my Norwegian background, I have a deep appreciation for outdoor lifestyle gear. Our connection with nature has always been integral to our way of life.
Since the opening of the page, how did you see social media's influence on consumers regarding outdoor and technical products?
Indeed, our approach has always been rooted in organic growth. We've never attempted to force anything and consistently produce content that aligns with trends, while maintaining a focus on crafting curated content featuring products and apparel from both new and established brands. The entire process has unfolded organically, especially considering I'm the sole person managing the account at the moment. This approach has allowed me to maintain a clear vision of what I aim to accomplish. I'm genuinely thrilled that we've managed to cultivate a strong culture and community around our content. I've also made it a point to contribute to the community by collaborating and ensuring that our products are accessible to everyone, avoiding exclusivity that's often prevalent. Our collaboration with Keen serves as an excellent example of this approach, as it presents a more affordable option without compromising on quality, technical features, or style. These shoes strike a great balance between commercial appeal and a cool outdoor aesthetic.
How did you start collaborating with Keen, and how was your approach to work product design?
So, I actually checked my Gmail before this interview, and I found an email from 2021. It was when I was getting in touch with Keen because they were planning to send me some products. I reached out to inquire if there were any contacts I could connect with. Back then, I reached out to Jeroen from Keen to discuss potential collaboration opportunities. During that time, he mentioned there were internal restructuring and changes happening, involving individuals moving from Japan to Portland. It wasn't feasible at that point, but I decided to wait. After a year, he got back to me. It's been a gradual process for me, consistently reaching out to brands with potential and those I genuinely admire. Keen is among those brands; I first discovered them in Japan back in 2011.
Since this is the second collaboration, how has the process changed between the first collaboration and the second one?
The distinction between the first and second collaboration lies in my increased involvement with Keen. I was even invited to Pitti and had the opportunity to meet with the Keen team and distributors. During my time there, I showcased the products and conducted interviews. Being a part of the Keen family has always felt natural. Currently, we have plans to visit Marseille and Milan and to hold an event with both Saison and One Block Down. Among all my projects, this one holds a special place due to my deep involvement in it.
This collaboration represents an incredible opportunity for us to create a powerful synergy together. It's the perfect moment to embark on such a venture, especially considering the challenging market conditions we're all aware of. Doing something innovative and organizing events around this project is a fantastic way to navigate these times.
Did the process for this collaboration start with you looking into the archive?
Our discussions with Keen sparked intriguing ideas, especially considering that Keen Jasper is marking its 15th anniversary this year. The decision to focus on this particular model was reinforced by Keen's commitment to the "Keen Effect." As we embarked on this collaborative endeavor, it became apparent that we wanted to contribute positively. Hence, we opted to allocate a specific percentage of proceeds towards rainforest conservation—a choice inspired by our shared affinity for nature and frogs. This collaboration provided an avenue for me to select a cause to champion alongside Keen. This aspect holds significance for my audience as well. The project takes on greater meaning as we're actively giving back through our efforts. It goes beyond the creation of stylish footwear; it's about making a tangible, positive impact.
How do you see Hiking Patrol evolving in the future? With fashion changing shape very fast and starting as a curated Instagram page, it has become linked with products. How do you see it evolving?
I constantly strive to comprehend the duration of this trend, while also exerting some influence over it from my standpoint. By engaging in captivating projects and collaborations, we can sustain our relevance in the realm of fashion and lifestyle. I endeavor not to excessively adhere to fashion trends; however, they seem to be aligning more with the outdoor trend, which creates a positive synergy. Moreover, I am enthusiastic about witnessing the future's sustainability endeavors.
Speaking of Hiking Patrol, we have some exiting news to share in 2024, we are launching our own brand. I believe this venture is the next logical step for us – fostering collaborations while also establishing a brand. This is paramount, given that we've been engaging in collaborations without a distinct brand identity. It's a distinctive aspect in our case, operating as an entity that forges collaborations of this nature. This journey has undeniably bolstered my confidence. Hence, our ultimate objective is to create more products. These offerings will be characterized by affordability, aesthetic appeal, and independence from transient trends. Accessibility in terms of pricing is also paramount to us.
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