Rikki Hughes, the producer of HBO Max’s new streetwear competition show The Hype, can hardly believe her program is the first of its kind. “You have television shows about Alaska fishing,” she says. Meanwhile, streetwear—only one of the dominant forces in contemporary fashion, and the obsession of every advertiser’s dreamed-about 18-to-34 demographic—hasn’t yet had its moment on TV. Now, though, streetwear is getting what might be its very first dedicated show in The Hype: a series that takes the successful format of Project Runway and Amazon’s Making the Cut and piles it high with hoodies and all-over prints.
The Hype, like those other shows, takes the form of a fashion competition. A number of contestants who already own moderately successful streetwear businesses compete over the course of eight episodes, typically consisting of a single challenge, to emerge victorious with a $150,000 prize. Contestants design graphics on computers, embroider jackets, and sew garments together; eventually, they present to a panel of judges. The mainstay judges—stylist Marni Senofonte; Bephie Birkett, the co-owner of Los Angeles retailer Union; and Migos member Offset, who also produces the show—are joined throughout the series by a rotating cast of their famous friends like A$AP Ferg, Wiz Khalifa, and Cardi B. The idea, Offset says, started from of a general desire to do something, anything around streetwear and eventually narrowed to this particular competition format. “We just landed on this concept,” he says. The competition style and different challenges, he explains, were a way to gin up excitement for this world.
As a TV show, The Hype is entertaining. Streetwear is unsurprisingly rich material. Challenges ask contestants to make hoodies, collaborate with each other, produce lookbooks, and create clothes for an Instagram “It” couple. When contestants use fashion jargon—like, say, “lookbook”—a sleek graphic pops up to define the term. Judges are called co-signers because, Hughes says, “in streetwear you need that ultimate cosign. You need an artist to wear your clothes, you need some expert to be able to say this is dope, you need an influencer to post it. These are the things that will blow up a career for streetwear designers.” Offset is a surprisingly voluble host, directing contestants and listing out his complaints when a design doesn’t meet his expectations. Those looking for a definition of streetwear might appreciate Offset’s: “It’s whatever your heart brings to the table,” he tells me.