Hypland’s brand DNA uses the combination of social inclusion and multicultural awareness as its muse. This integration creates a timeless design aesthetic and unique space in streetwear fashion, where customers embody their individuality through innovative pieces adorned with iconic cultural symbols such as flags and language. Hypland refrains from focusing on trends and aims to provide classic clothing that represents and speaks to the masses.
Creative and ambitious, with an undeniable entrepreneurial spark well beyond his years, Hypland Founder & CEO, Jordan Bentley, was never one to wait for permission to pursue his dreams.
In elementary school he loved to draw, collect Pokemon cards, and lived and breathed all things anime, especially Naruto and Dragon Ball Z. Jordan was so passionate about the Japanese art form that it was the only type of television program he watched. You could find him wearing Naruto headbands in school and doing the “Naruto run” – mimicking the way his hero ran, leaning forward with his arms outstretched behind him – getting teased mercilessly for it. Jordan reflects, “People are so afraid to try something new for fear of not fitting in.” He would ultimately have the last laugh. Like the Naruto character, his determination and persistence in the face of unkindness, along with the ups and downs of life, would ultimately lead to his creative destiny.
In 6th grade, he got into skateboarding, and discovered streetwear when his uncle took him to skate shops. He was inspired by streetwear brands like The Hundreds, a community-based streetwear brand and media platform with an emphasis on “People Over Product,” and Diamond Supply Co., a California-based skateboarding accessories company and clothing line. So growing up around that culture he thought, “Why don’t I make some shirts myself?” And the brand grew and developed from there. His dad gifted him a sewing machine but he ended up sewing everything by hand.
A year later the 7th grader was designing t-shirts in his mom’s dining room, preferring to work from scratch, in the “cut and sew” style. Meanwhile, his flair for being an entrepreneur began to reveal itself. The ambitious middle schooler funded his own work, buying plain t-shirts with the money he’d saved up selling candy bars and chips. His other uncle, a Vice President at Nestle also pitched in, providing his nephew with some sweet merchandise.
His Business Happened Organically, While Simply Having Fun Creating
When attending Viewpark Middle School in Los Angeles, he and a few friends decided to create a brand as a school project. The brand mostly circled around making music and a few t-shirts with the name of their brand, “Ihyp” (pronounced “I-hype”) – chosen during the dawn of the iPhone era and to coin their brand as “exciting”- on the front. The group of friends would sell their shirts for $20 or so at school. After the other members of the group dropped out, Jordan stuck with it, determined to expand his brand. He toyed with the name “Ihypla” (pronounced “I-hype-L-A”), before finally deciding on “Hypland,” which basically means “Los Angeles is the land of excitement.”
The first design he ever made was inspired by the popular skateboarding lifestyle brand, Supreme. He was an avid reader of HYPEBEAST, one of the world’s foremost authorities on streetwear and street culture. He was such a big fan of it, that when he later created his brand, his name was an homage to both HYPEBEAST and Los Angeles.
The Transition from Hobby to Business
In middle school, he would sell shirts here and there. It was a “buy and flip” situation where he could “just have some money in his pocket.”
He added his new brand name on the shirts through silk screen printing, and began selling them via a website with the help of his mother. The catch was the setup didn’t allow customers to purchase online. Instead, they would request the clothing they wanted and exchange information. His mom put a Hypland license plate on their car, and the mother and son duo drove around Los Angeles completing the purchases and making drop-offs.
During this time, Jordan remembers making his first $1000 and thinking to himself, “If I keep this up then I can make a living out of this brand.”
So at age 14, he unofficially started his brand. He describes it as “unofficially,” because he was an 8th grader. He didn’t start with the intention of wanting to launch a brand, it was more about creating t-shirts for his friends. When demand for his creations started to pick up at school, he knew he was on to something. He decided to explore what he could do with all of the attention his designs were drawing in.
Defining Moment: Interning at Rip N Dip
Later that year, Ryan O’Connor, creator and owner of Rip N Dip clothing, gave him an opportunity to intern at his young company. Jordan credits O’Connor as a significant mentor in his life. The internship lasted three years on and off, and taught him primarily about marketing. Initially, he found it a tedious experience, but acknowledges his current success as proof that this had paid off. Some advice he received at the time, humbled him: “Listen. Don’t talk about yourself. Focus on learning. Not everything’s about you!”
When Jordan got to high school, that’s when it all finally dawned on him that he could make a real career from his design endeavors. But this realization was met with some challenges: The school administrators would not allow him to sell his goods at school. But his was a passion that could not be extinguished. He would sit for hours during his high school years, spending all day looking at Vogue.com‘s archive of runway shows, reviewing runway looks from designers he’d never heard of.
Dreams By Design
In 9th grade, Jordan had a dream. In the dream, he was collaborating with Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball Z (DBZ and Naruto were his two favorite anime growing up), and they made some cool designs. Jordan woke up inspired with an amazing idea for a design. Fast forward to senior year in college: He went to a convention with his design and all licensors said no to it but one – Viz Media – the company behind Naruto! And his dream to work with one of his heroes came true.
At age 16, during his junior year at Culver City High School, he officially started his brand, trademarking Hypland and creating a website with the availability to make online orders. This was set up thanks to an investment from his mom of $2000. The progress and excitement was short-lived, as he’d made only $20 his first day. Then, after just two months of launching, the site’s programming simply stopped working. Back to square one, he began selling from his mother’s trunk again, but soon launched a new, more affordable website, which proved much easier to manage – and this time it was a success.
Exactly one year after his successful website launch, he paid homage to the countries where the majority of his online orders came from, by incorporating the flags of the United States, Netherlands, Australia, and Canada into his crew-neck sweaters, hoodies, pants and baseball caps with his Worldwide collection. The following year he added three more countries: United Kingdom, China and Korea because, “they’re just cool looking flags,” Jordan says.
“Worldwide is about capturing every worldwide audience and inclusion.” At the time, he was taking a class called Intercultural Literature. Jordan reflects, “This was perhaps the most impactful class I’d taken throughout my entire school career, college included. My teacher focused on teaching us different things about the world and touched on a variety of topics. I learned how we are all connected through all these different spaces. I’m interested in the way people connect to one another through food, culture, etc. This class had a lasting impact that got me interested in other people’s cultures.”
And he debuted this collection in conjunction with his website’s one-year anniversary. He received an incredible response during the anniversary: “I got love from five countries – the Netherlands, Canada, Japan, UK, and the United States.” It did exceptionally well and has been one of his most successful collections. These cool-looking flags created more revenue in 2014, producing an annual earning of $80,000 for Hypland, Jordan and his mother.
The Intercultural Literature class has had a lasting impact on him. It left him interested in other people’s cultures and when he travels he’s really interested in how people connect with one another, whether it be through food, art, or pop culture.
Junior year of high school is also when he started dropping collections, and it got posted on The Hundreds’ feed. A few independent blogs picked up on what he was doing, as well. His mom’s friend would print all of his stuff for “dirt cheap,” and then Jordan would sell them at his school for $25. “It was a made-to-order thing.” And because family and friends were helping him, he could get more stuff done and sell a lot of shirts.
This was also the year that a teacher got him in hot water, telling the principal that Jordan was selling candy and clothes at school. They proceeded to take all of the clothes out of his locker, along with his candy, and they even tried to take his money! He said, “You are going to have to suspend me because you are not taking my money!” The drama continued as this very same teacher proved to be a massive bully. Jordan started noticing that his papers kept being returned to him with the same less-than-stellar grade. His mom, Stephanie Carter (a former USC and CSUDH Social Science Professor), grew suspicious. So she wrote a paper and had Jordan submit it. Same low grade. That’s when she marched down to school and took care of things!
But this only fired Jordan up and helped him to build his confidence.
He Believes Working with Influencers is an Essential Piece of Marketing for a Brand
Around 2014, he had his first taste of working with influencers. “It’s not super easy getting your stuff in the hands of those with influence.” He believes that sending his brand to YouTube influencers for their reviews worked because it was before influencers fully saturated the marketing landscape. “Now, everyone’s an influencer.”
He recalls sitting at home when Hypland received a ton of traffic on its website. He was trying to figure out where it was coming from. “I didn’t post anything!” And then he received a DM and found out that it was an influencer wore his clothing in a video. Then Jordan watched the video and it was funny because he had intentionally sent this influencer the wrong size because he didn’t have a size large, so he sent him a medium because it ran big. So the influencer talked about how he got the wrong size and just like that, Jordan had a ton of business come his way. It ended up blowing up and working in his favor. It’s funny how things work out like that.
During Jordan’s Freshman Year at UC Irvine, College Took His Brand to the Next Level
He recalls this as being one of the happiest times in his life. Having built a network of friends, he found that college provided him with a networking opportunity with his brand’s target audience, which complemented his need to market his brand. He also played basketball and tennis and had time to be creative. He wasn’t under any pressure. While there was little balance in his life, he loved every bit of it. Compared to high school, he found college to be super flexible. College felt like being thrown into the ocean, and he dove in wholeheartedly. It was a fun transition. The experience introduced him to so much: He loved the flexibility of his job and being able to be his own boss, along with the freedom, new people, environments and perspectives that surrounded him.
He Was Mentored by Legendary Designer Virgil Abloh
In the summer of his sophomore year, he had the opportunity to meet with Virgil Abloh, the first person of African descent to lead the Louis Vuitton menswear line, as well as one of the few black designers at the helm of a major French fashion house. He had Jordan create a mood board, offering the primary advice of the concept of hyperfocus – a “less is more” approach in the development of his lines, which might consist of reducing a concept to one specific image and word to guide the development of a complete line. It was a powerful experience that further propelled Jordan on his path.
By His Junior Year in College, He’d Made His First Million
As Hypland grew increasingly in demand, he considered dropping out, but his mom told him, “No, you are not dropping out.” He’s grateful for this: if it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t have finished school.
During his senior year, he was busy juggling his business with his studies, ultimately completing his degree in International Studies and Business Information Management. At this time, Hypland launched in Zumiez. He also secured anime licensing collaborations with Bleach and Hunter x Hunter. By this time, Hypland had been featured at Agenda and ComplexCon trade shows, HYPEBEAST, High Snobiety, cultivating enthusiastic customers spanning the globe.
Then in 2020, his life came full circle, when Hypland released a collection in collaboration with Naruto to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the legendary anime series, which had inspired his earliest designs.
Reflecting on the Past and Looking to the Future
Jordan believes his success in anime and the streetwear space is because he’s truly passionate about it. Lately, he has grown very enthusiastic about technical design, and has been focusing on home goods, such as tables and complex accessories. He feels a pull to move more into a role of creative direction and design.
His family’s support has been key to his success. Above all, Jordan’s mom has always been there for him, guiding him and leading him every step of the way. Of her son’s accomplishments, she said: “I don’t take credit for your success because I’ll never take credit for your failures. Success is a choice, I’ll help you get there but it’s up to you.” Wanting to pay it forward, Jordan hopes that his example will have a positive impact on his little brother.
Jordan is not afraid to go outside the norms of style inspiration, which is one of many key qualities that makes his brand special. Customers aren’t simply buying clothes with Hypland, they’re buying something that reflects facets of themselves to others with pride.
Pictured: Hypland Founder Jordan Bentley
What would you like people to know about your journey?
Hypland means family. A hub where we can come together and connect with people from different spaces. I want people to see themselves and express themselves through my clothes and feel like, “I’ve never had this type of representation.” Those that are not typically represented in fashion are who I want to represent.
What advice do you have for others wanting to start their own business?
Remain authentic. When you are passionate about something, people that are also interested in that same topic can ‘read it’ and see it as genuine.
Trust in your ideas. If you are really creative, a lot of people want to give you advice, tell you things that they’ve done, things that didn’t work for them. It’s always most important to trust yourself. If you have a vision, work on your vision. Don’t let naysayers or people project their failures and things on you. The best thing is to stay authentic. Be consistent. Growth comes with consistency.
Give back to the culture that you participate in. It’s not always about giving money, but giving your time.
What do you love most about your work?
The customer reactions and support. I love being able to go somewhere in Los Angeles, or almost anywhere for that matter, and see someone wearing something that I designed. It’s tight knowing that kids all around the world like the stuff that I make. The flexibility of being my own boss, getting to create what I want and do what I love every day.
Of his Worldwide concept, Jordan says, “Whenever we do Moroccan jackets or Palestinian or whatever country is on the jackets, I want people to be like…[that’s ME]!” He wants people to see themselves and express themselves through his clothes. “That guy from Korea can be like, ‘I got my Korea jacket on,’ and be proud. Anyone that is not typically represented in fashion as much.”